NBC aired a three-hour adaptation of the Broadway musical “The Wiz” Thursday night. Social media responded with claims that the all-black cast was racist.
The Wiz was created by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown, and was originally produced on Broadway in 1975. The musical was specifically intended to be an all-black adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel and the subsequent all-white film.
Following its Broadway success, Motown Productions adapted The Wiz into a film in 1978. The movie starred Diana Ross and Michael Jackson amongst others.
NBC’s newest adaptation, that aired Thursday night for the holiday season, scored huge numbers. As the Daily Mail UK reports, the event garnered 11.1 million viewers. It nearly beat out Thursday Night Football, but fell short. The Wiz scored more viewers than NBC’s production last year of Peter Pan (9.21 million). However, NBC’s first live production, 2013’s The Sound Of Music, beat both with 18.6 million viewers.
Despite the huge numbers, Twitter users took to their keyboards to voice anger over the production.
Colorlines quotes Twitter user @MJTM, “I just learned there is a black version of The Wizard of Oz called “The Wiz” – how is this not racist?”
HollywoodLife quotes another Twitter user saying, “#TheWiz on @NBC is a PC Disaster. An all-black Wizard of OZ? Give me a freaking break. I could say that’s racist but…”
The Daily Mail UK quotes another Twitter user saying, “Minorities act like they’re the victims, but can you imagine if we made an all-white version of The Wiz?”
There was also a counter-reaction to the anger on Twitter.
One Twitter user said, “People complaining that #TheWiz is all black. Um…you didn’t notice The Wizard of Oz was all white? People seriously scare me.”
Twitter user @juanjoarroyo23 said, “@YonnieTaughtU @chasehoganjone1 ‘the wiz is the most racist thing I’ve ever seen’ is the most sheltered/privileged white person quote ever.”
Producers are planning to return The Wiz to Broadway. And despite the comments on Twitter, this NBC adaptation has certainly helped their cause.