Kenny Leon to direct Broadway-bound ‘Wiz’ live for NBC in December

Kenny Leon poses in the lobby of the Palace Theatre, home to his 2014 musical, "Holler If Ya Hear Me," based on the music of Tupac Shakur. MELISSA RUGGIERI / AJC PHOTO

Kenny Leon poses in the lobby of the Palace Theatre, home to his 2014 musical, “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” based on the music of Tupac Shakur. MELISSA RUGGIERI / AJC PHOTO

Atlanta director Kenny Leon will direct the next live musical for NBC, “The Wiz,” on Dec. 3, the network announced Monday.

The show, which will feature performers from Cirque du Soleil, also is headed for a 2016-17 Broadway run.

Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein will contribute new material to the original Broadway book by William F. Brown and work alongside Leon and executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Zadan and Meron also executive produced “Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan” live for TV.

Leon worked with Zadan and Meron on a TV remake of “Steel Magnolias” and “Raisin in the Sun.”

“We love this yearly tradition and we’re more excited than ever to not only bring another Broadway musical to America’s living rooms, but also see it land on Broadway as well,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said in the announcement. “It’s a natural next step for our live musical events, and we’re so pleased to be in business with this award-winning creative team … Cirque’s incredible imagination will help bring the fantasy world of Oz vividly to life and give this great show a modern spin on the age-old story we all love.”

“The Wiz” is a retelling, in an African-American context, of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” with a book by William F. Brown and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. Starting in 1975, it ran for four years on Broadway. It scored seven Tonys, including best musical.

For a number of years, it also was the holiday show of Leon’s Atlanta-based troupe, True Colors Theatre Company.

Leon’s last Broadway directing assignment was “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” based on the music of the late Atlanta rapper Tupac Shakur.


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