NBC's live production of The Wiz just found its title character and its Wicked Witch of the West. Queen Latifah has signed on to play the most powerful person in Emerald City, while Mary J. Blige will play the show's villain.
For the Emmy-nominated Bessie star, the role is a chance to reunite with the team that earned her an Oscar nomination for Chicago, executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The two are also behind NBC's previous live-action musicals The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!, not to mention Latifah's Steel Magnolias remake as well as 2007's Hairspray.
“We are so happy reuniting with Latifah,” said Zadan and Meron. “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve had quite a lot of success together. To see her play the iconic role of The Wiz and make it her own is going to be one of the joys of producing this event.”
As The Wiz, Latifah plays “the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm,” EW reports.
Meanwhile, Blige’s Wicked Witch, aka Evillene, “holds sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.”
The Wiz premieres Thursday, December 3 on NBC. Watch Latifah talk about her role in Bessie, below:
(Photos from left: Jason Merritt/Getty Images, Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Casa Reale)