wiz live (dag shanice ne-yo elijah)

David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), Shanice Williams (Dorothy), Ne-Yo (Tin Man), and Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow) in ‘The Wiz Live!’

David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow), and Ne-Yo (Tin Man) put their spin on “The Wiz Live!

The trio and other cast and crewmembers were eager to talk about their roles with the Electronic Urban Report/EUR at the Grummun Studios in Bethage, New York.

Guys, can you talk about the new music and dances in this adaptation of The Wiz?

ELIJAH KELLEY: It’s kind of woven through the whole thing. This is not based in the 70s but in 2015. So that’s from the chorography to the technology even to the lingo, but not in a way that it takes away from it. We didn’t make it so modern that you don’t recognize it anymore. We just brought it to today’s generation would be able to watch and adapt and be able to relate.

NE-YO:  It still is classic. When you hear the nae nae, I know it probably sounds crazy to you, but when you see it, it will make sense.

DAVID ALAN GRIER:  We are bringing it to life!

What about the new Ne-Yo song?

EK:  Kenny (Leon) said that there’s never been a song that basically captured the four friends together. Ne-Yo did an incredible job with the lyrics…He literally is a genius to be able to verbalize that in a very specific way. When America hears it and the world hears it, it will become bigger than just a song. This is a moment in time in a legendary production that we are blessed to be a part of.

NY:  I think I was nine-years-old when I first saw ‘The Wiz.’ So for me to have a song that has been incorporated into this iconic and classic story, it’s an honor beyond words. It’s been an amazing ride for me. They’ve taken these words, these melodies and turned them into an event. It’s amazing.

wiz trio (ne-yo-dag-kelley)

Ne-Yo, David Alan Grier, and Elijah Kelley at Grummun Studios in Bethage, New York.

I imagine it was a lot of fun working on this?

DAG:  It’s really fun to work with these guys. I’m embarrassed to admit, when I first got cast, I started packing my clothes a month in advance. It’s a kid like enthusiasm that I have for this project. I can’t wait to get to work and complain about how hard we are working.

EK:  Learning from David is incredible. Even though he says we come in with humble spirits, he’s been in this game for so long.

NY:  I’m learning from everybody. This is my first time doing anything in theater. So I walked in with no real expectations just because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how I was going to interact with other people and didn’t know what I was walking into to be honest with you. I was happy that this guy [Elijah Kelley] was a part of it because we met on the set of ‘Reds Tails’ and we’ve been brothers ever since.

What was it like playing these iconic roles?

DAG:  I didn’t see me. There’s an excitement to that and I hope to convey that in the performance that you see.

EK:  Absolutely. It’s the same way. Kenny, the director, allows us to take liberties early in our character to be able to get into it so once the costume was actually on, it was so natural. It was like training for a suit. You’ve got this tailored suit and once you’ve actually put it on it’s like, ‘Oh, I know how to walk in it now.’ We meshed into the character once we got in it. There’s no separation of the two.

NY:  Kenny’s guidance helps you get into the character. He helps you create this other person. He will really break down the layers of what’s happening and just make it that much easier for you to become as opposed to acting.

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]

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