‘The Wiz Live!’ gives us the representation we need
Forty years later, the creative retelling of the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz was revitalized when the The Wiz Live! aired on NBC on December 3rd. While watching, it wasn’t hard to connect with the familiar songs like “Ease on Down the Road” and “Home.” The live musical kept the same soul and excitement that made The Wiz a classic. However, The Wiz Live! added some flare the past adaptations did not have. There were ipads, dabs, superfly munchkins, vogueing in the Emerald City, but most importantly Dorothy, our all American girl, had natural hair. In essence, this new production gave us the prime time representation we have been waiting for.
Growing up, I didn’t watch The Wizard of Oz (1939). I watched The Wiz (1978) with Diana Ross and the late Michael Jackson aka the “King of Pop” on a VHS tape. With an all Black cast, a setting in Harlem, and the original tagline of a super soul musical, The Wiz became a classic for Black families everywhere. We created our own classics because the only word society told us was “no.” No to our freedom, no to representation, no to culture, and we needed a place that said “yes.”
One of the great changes from the original stage play to the modern one was Dorothy’s look. It’s been a natural hair revolution for the last couple of years. Gone are the days of silky weaves and deadly perms serving as the standard for beautiful hair. Today we have natural twists, braid-outs, afros, and everything in-between. Short, long—it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Black women feel comfortable and beautiful in just as they are.
A musical that is dedicated to celebrating Black brilliance, culture, and liveliness did not need to follow the beauty standards that were established in the Wizard of Oz. A 21st century Black Dorothy with 16 inch yaki would not have worked. Dorothy with natural hair that danced above her shoulders was beautiful.
As Shanice Williams said in an interview with The Grio:
“She [Dorothy] was just a natural African-American girl. I know you saw the promo pictures for Glinda with the blonde hair, and we was like, ‘Good witch doesn’t have to have blonde hair, she can have her natural braided up hair, like an African-American queen.’ I’m happy that they stuck with those choices. It added to her character. She’s just funky, modern and fierce.”
Black culture has its own beauty standards, music, and style, and Dorothy’s’ hair perfectly fit into them.
The play goes on sale December 22nd! Buy it here on Amazon.
Photo credit: THE WIZ LIVE! — Season: 2015 — Pictured: Shanice Williams as Dorothy — (Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)