via press release:
LAST TWO WITCHES FLY INTO ‘THE WIZ LIVE!’: ‘CRAZY EYES’ UZO ADUBA AND ‘GLEE’ STAR AMBER RILEY
Emmy and SAG Award Winners Join Previously Announced All-Star Cast as Dec. 3 Telecast Heats Up
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Aug. 6, 2015 — Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba and Screen Actors Guild Award winner “Glee” star Amber Riley have joined the all-star cast of NBC’s hotly anticipated holiday production of “The Wiz Live!,” set for Thursday, Dec 3.
“We are so happy to welcome two actors we’ve admired and wanted so much to work with,” said executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “We look forward to showcasing the amazing musical talents of Amber and we are eager to introduce Uzo’s remarkable singing voice for those who know her solely as an extraordinary dramatic actress.”
Aduba, who once again is nominated for an Emmy this year, is best known for her role as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.” She will play Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, who finally reveals the secret of the silver slippers to Dorothy and points her way home.
Last year Aduba won the Emmy for guest actress in a comedy series as well as two SAG Awards — outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series and outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 2014.
Before starring on television, Aduba made her Broadway debut in “Coram Boy” in 2007 followed by the hit musical revival of “Godspell” in 2011. She discovered her talent for singing at a very early age and became a classical music major at the Boston University School of Fine Arts.
Aduba was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best supporting actress in a play for her work in the Kennedy Center/Olney Theater production of “Translations of Xhosa.” Other theater credits include “Dessa Rose” at the New Repertory Theatre, “Turnado: Rumble for the Ring” at the Papermill Playhouse and “Abyssinia” at the Goodspeed Theatre.
Riley will play Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North who isn’t the best at magic but she does try. She is a sister of Glinda, Evillene and Evvamene, the other three witches of Oz. She points Dorothy to the Yellow Brick Road and her journey to Emerald City.
Riley, who has played Mercedes Jones on “Glee” for six seasons and was a significant musical force on the series, won a SAG Award in 2010 for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series, and was nominated three other times in the same category.
In 2013, Riley won the 17th season of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” as she was partnered with five-time champion Derek Hough.
NBC recently raised the project’s star quotient in a big way by adding multi-award winners and A-list stars Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige to the telecast, as well as multi-hyphenate talent David Alan Grier and newcomer Shanice Williams.
Queen Latifah stars as the Wiz, 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.
Mary J. Blige will play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, who 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.
David Alan Grier will play the Cowardly Lion, who asks Dorothy if he can join her in her journey down the Yellow Brick Road to ask the Wiz for some courage, which he is severely lacking.
Shanice Williams, a 19-year-old New Jersey native who has been raised and trained in musical theater, is the new Dorothy.
Stephanie Mills was previously announced to portray Auntie Em in “The Wiz Live!” Mills is best known to many for playing Dorothy in the original Broadway production of “The Wiz.”
“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 production opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including Best Musical.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“The Sound of Music Live!,” “Peter Pan Live!,” Oscar-winning “Chicago”) will executive produce. Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) is stage director and Matthew Diamond is TV director, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material.
Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson (“Dreamgirls,” “Ali”) is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. (“Dreamgirls, “Pitch Perfect 2”) and Stephen Oremus (“The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots”) as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.
“The Wiz Live!” is produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.