Mills’ history with the iconic production began 40 years ago when she starred as Dorothy in the original Broadway musical. In Thursday's live event, the singer-actress will play the role of Aunt Em.
In an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this week, Mills says the experience of starring in the Kenny Leon-directed production has been “phenomenal.”
“I’m so glad and so happy that the journey continues. Forty years ago, who knew that ‘The Wiz’ would be thought about, let alone be relevant in 2015,” she told HuffPost. “It’s almost surreal re-living it, because as I sit back and watch the rehearsals, in my mind I go back to when I first did the rehearsals back in 1975. And it’s like wow, this is really happening. “
Mills’ lead role in the 1975 production, which won 7 Tony Awards, nabbed the actress a Drama Desk Award nomination. The musical’s success later inspired a feature length motion picture in 1978 starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor.
According to Mills, Leon and award-winning playwright Harvey Fierstein decided to maintain elements of the original script instead of the film for NBC’s live broadcast.
“The whole idea of the movie was taken from 1975. So they had to go back to the origin of when ‘The Wiz’ was created, which was the Broadway show,” she said. “And Harvey Fierstein did an amazing job with updating the script. A lot of the script from 1975 is still there, but he did a beautiful job with tweaking it and making it 2015 without taking away the essence of what 'The Wiz' was. 'The Wiz' movie was totally different. She (Dorothy) was a school teacher and it went in a lot of different directions. It wasn’t taken from the play. ”
The production will mark Mills’ first live musical telecast, and as expected, she has a few jitters surrounding the syndicated event. Despite her anxiety, the Grammy Award winner has found some common ground to alleviate her nerves.
“I am so nervous, but what has helped it is that I’ve been rehearsing for two months, and we’ve been rehearsing it like a Broadway show,” she said. “I’m comfortable with Broadway and doing shows with theater. I can do that with my eyes closed. So as long as I think that in my head -- that it’s just another performance -- I’ll be fine. You get nervous when you start to think ‘Oh, why is there so many cameras,’ but if I think ‘This is a show at the theater’ I’m going to be fine.”
The singer, who recently released her latest single, “Afraid to Love" featuring Jodeci singer K-Ci Haley on Apple music on November 27, expressed her interest in reprising her role as Aunt Em for the 2016-2017 Broadway revival of “The Wiz.”
“Kenny Leon has asked me about it. I hope that I’m asked to do the Broadway show. I would love to go back to Broadway with the Wiz as Aunt Em,” she said. “Kenny told me that I’m making history again. He said, ‘You made history playing Dorothy, now you’re going to be the only actress that has come back to a revival in a different role.’ So I’m pretty jazzed about that.”
“The Wiz Live!" airs on NBC on Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. EST.
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