NBC and Cirque du Soleil team up for 'The Wiz' live musical event

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 30, 2015 5:19 PM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC will be going down the yellow brick road for its next live musical event "The Wiz," collaborating with theatrical performance troupe Cirque du Soleil, the network said on Monday, part of a strategy to entice viewers to watch live television.

The TV event, which will air on Dec. 3, will usher in a new theatrical revival of the musical on Broadway in 2016 by Cirque du Soleil, both overseen by Broadway stalwarts, director Kenny Leon and writer Harvey Fierstein.

"The Wiz," based on the Broadway hit musical of the same name, follows author L. Frank Baum's classic tale "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" but with an African-American and multicultural spin, the network said.

No casting announcement has been made yet.

The original 1975 Broadway production of "The Wiz" won seven Tony Awards, including best musical, and featured music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. It was made into a film in 1978 starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

By using musicals to draw audiences to live events, the network hoped to have a defense against later viewing on digital video recorders, which is less valuable to advertisers.

Comcast-owned NBC drummed up the live audience for its last two musical events, both overseen by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team behind the last three Oscars ceremonies.

"The Sound of Music" starring country artist Carrie Underwood drew 19 million viewers in 2013, while more than 9 million tuned into last year's "Peter Pan" starring "Girls" actress Allison Williams and Christopher Walken.

Zadan and Meron will executive produce "The Wiz."

NBC has ranked first among the 18-49 demographic most coveted by advertisers in the TV season that started in September 2014, and is second in the network ratings list for total viewership, behind only CBS Corp's CBS network.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Grant McCool)