First let me say I have an emotional and personal connection to The Wiz. Like most people that were going to watch it that night, I love The Wiz! It's a classic whether you are talking about the Broadway show or the film. Also, my father (Harvey Mason, Sr.) played drums on the original film score and soundtrack alongside one of my idols, producer Quincy Jones, so I felt the pressure to get the music right.
The songs from The Wiz are woven into our DNA so if you are going to remake or re-sing "Home" or "You Can't Win", you better deliver, just like there is no excuse to sing Whitney's "The Greatest Love Of All" if you don't have the chops (Sexual Chocolate anyone?!)
So as it was getting near show time I was initially nervous.
I'd been working with the cast all week so I felt pretty confident but Black Twitter was waiting to see how Mary, Amber, NE-YO, David, Elijah, Queen Latifah and newcomer Shanice would bring our beloved characters to life (poor Elijah had to compete with Michael Jackson's scarecrow - and he more than held his own by the way).
We also knew twitter was waiting to hear if we messed up the music!
There was another layer of pressure because we were utilizing the Broadway play as our foundation so anyone who saw the play in 1975 was going to remember stellar performances not only by Stephanie Mills but Ted Ross (Lion), Mabel King (Eveillene), Andre De Shields (The Wiz) and on and on. I was imagining groups of people gathered around their TVs, phones in hand ready to Tweet to let us know what was wrong.
But once Stephanie hit that first note I felt even more confident. Let me be clear, I was already happy with what Stephen Oremus (Musical Director) and I created but I have been producing music long enough to know that until you release it to the world, and nowadays to Black Twitter (who could get a hold of it and hate it), you never really know.
But EVERYONE delivered and Black Twitter loved it! I personally believe it was a mixture of the undeniable vocal performances, the re-imagined arrangements and production that added a contemporary feel while paying tribute to the classic works, the beautiful costumes, cool choreography, stunning set designs and the great cast chemistry that made this a cultural and ratings success.
And what's the story behind the new song "We Got It"? You would think it was a big risk to introduce it during this live performance, never heard before by the public. But it worked because the director felt there was a missing story beat from when The Wiz orders the friends to kill Evillene and how they prepare before setting out on that mission. This collaboration between myself, Stephen, NE-YO and Elijah Kelly was one of many highlights of working on this show.
As we re-worked this music, our goals were:
1. Create a score that had a contemporary music feel and sensibility mixed with a Broadway theatrical flair
2. Pay homage to the beloved original Broadway music
3. Enhance the songs so they fit the stars of the show and not the other way around
I think we did it!
The Wiz Live! Soundtrack is available Dec. 11 on iTunes and the show will rebroadcast on NBC on Dec. 19 at 8pm EST