Comcast announced this afternoon it will include a national video description pilot program with NBC’s broadcast of Broadway musical The Wiz Live! on December 3, making it the first live entertainment program to be accessible to people who have a visual disability in this country. Video description is a narration track that is included between the natural pauses in dialogue that describes the visual elements of a show or movie like facial expressions, settings, costumes and stage direction.
NBC has scheduled the special to premiere on Thursday, December 3 at 8 PM ET. Not coincidentally, December 3 also is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an international observance that has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992.
“Earlier this year, I attended a theater production of The Wiz and, without description, found it very difficult to follow the characters and action of the play,” Carl Augusto, CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind said in today’s Comcast announcement. “This nationally described television broadcast will not only be a godsend to people with vision loss, but also to those who describe action to people with vision loss, and the general public, who will learn about the importance of audio description.”
The described broadcast of The Wiz Live! will be available across the country, wherever SAP (Secondary Audio Program) audio feeds are available. To deliver the service, Comcast and NBC are partnering with Descriptive Video Works, which has provided more than 1,000 hours of live description, including Olympics, Paralympics, and the British royal wedding.
The Wiz Live!, adapted L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” features book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The production opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including best musical.
NBC’s production, produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical, stars Queen Latifah (The Wiz), Mary J. Blige (Evillene), Shanice Williams (Dorothy), David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), NE-YO (Tin Man), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow), Amber Riley (Addaperle), Stephanie Mills (Auntie Em), Uzo Aduba (Glinda) and Common (The Gatekeeper).
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron executive produce; Kenny Leon is stage director and Matthew Diamond is TV director, with Harvey Fierstein providing new written material. Fatima Robinson is choreographer and Harvey Mason Jr. is music producer, and Stephen Oremus is music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.