NBC, which has said it hoped to have its Dorothy cast by summer’s end for its live holiday production of The Wiz, has announced yet another casting call. This time it’s Monday, July 20 at Third Street Dance in Los Angeles. In May, NBC announced an open casting call for the lead role, for June 6 from 10 AM-2 PM at Telsey + Co in Manhattan.
Now, as then, NBC said casting directors are looking for a young African-American woman ages 18-27 who possesses “an extraordinary voice that can tell a story, as well as be mature with a youthful energy. Candidates need to be prepared to sing a short portion of some of the songs from the original Broadway production of The Wiz.
The new Dorothy will join Stephanie Mills, who played the role in the original production that opened on Broadway’s Majestic Theatre in 1975. This time, Mills will play Auntie Em.
The Wiz Live! is adapted from The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The Broadway production won seven Tonys, including best musical; the 1978 movie version starred Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — who exec produced NBC’s previous live holiday productions, The Sound of Music Live!, and Peter Pan Live! — serve as executive producers.
The Sound Of Music was panned by critics, but when it clocked about 19 million viewers and a 4.6 demo rating, that probably made critics feel pretty foolish – or not – though there was a certain amount of hate viewing. Peter Pan Live! fumbled about half the crowd, with Allison Williams playing Peter and Christopher Walken as Hook, averaging little over 9 million viewers and a 2.3 demo rating. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt speculated Sound of Music’s having cast Carrie Underwood in the lead role may have been the difference, Underwood having a huge fan base.
And yet, NBC is looking for an unknown for its Dorothy for its next live production. This time the network has partnered with Cirque du Soleil to co-produce the live event, which then will become a Broadway revival for the 2016-17 season. Greenblatt calls this “a natural next step for our live musical events,” suggesting NBC broadcast ratings are less relevant.
Kenny Leon will direct with Harvey Fierstein providing new written material. The Wiz Live! is produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.