Sources: People | All Things Michael
He has rather large shoes to fill as he eases on down the road, but The Wiz Live!‘s new Scarecrow considers the role a real thriller.
“I’m not intimidated. I’m not scared,” said Elijah Kelley of taking on the role made famous by Michael Jackson in the Broadway musical’s 1978 film adaptation.
“I don’t want to outdo Mike. I don’t want to overdo,” he added at a Radio Andy-hosted SiriusXM Town Hall for the upcoming NBC live event.
But Kelley is happy to follow the path paved by the King of Pop in some ways, saying he feels blessed to sing “You Can’t Win,” which Jackson sang in the movie even though it did not appear in the original stage production.
Said Kelley, “There’s big footprints to fill, but I know that God’s blessed me with the ability to honor.”
This current production of the musical written by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown actually has several connections to Jackson. Among them, R&B star Ne-Yo, who plays the Tinman, collaborated with the singer before his unexpected death in 2009. Also, Stephanie Mills – who originated the role of Dorothy on Broadway 40 years ago and is playing Aunt Em in this production – was dating Jackson while he was filming the movie.
“He would take me to set every day,” Mills recalled at the Town Hall taping on Monday.
After Mills originated the role of Dorothy when The Wiz opened on Broadway in 1975, the part in the film went to Diana Ross – but Mills says she didn’t begrudge the soul legend her success then and still doesn’t now.
“I had my own yellow brick road,” said Mills. “I had such a wonderful life. I had the show, and I was getting ready to record an album. I just enjoyed the ride … I was in love with Michael, and I was having a great time, so I didn’t care.”
The actress said that returning to this production all these years later is “like having an out-of-body experience. I feel blessed to see it come around again.”
The Wiz Live! – also starring newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy, Queen Latifah as The Wiz, Mary J. Blige as The Wicked Witch of the West, Orange is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, and David Alan Grier as the Lion – airs Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
Radio Andy’s Town Hall interview with the cast will air Nov. 20 on SiriusXM.
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