'The Wiz Live!': Why you need to watch with Black Twitter

Story highlights

  • "The Wiz Live" has a star-studded black cast
  • It features a newcomer in the role of Dorothy

(CNN)Some were not initially happy when NBC announced it would be staging "The Wiz Live!"

The Broadway musical that was adapted into a 1978 film starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow is beloved and one of those projects that many fans felt should not be touched.
It remains to be seen whether the new production airing Thursday night pulls it off, but rest assured, Black Twitter will be all over it.
    That group has been most vocal because "The Wiz," the black adaption of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," is part of the African-American canon of films.
    What is Black Twitter?
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    "Black Twitter" refers to the complex and powerful society on Twitter that focuses on issues of interest to the black community, be they political, social or entertainment.
    They will be the ones to watch for the memes, the hashtags and the like that will determine whether "The Wiz Live" will be "da bomb" or a bust. They have been the ones who have roasted the likes of Lifetime's Aaliyah and Whitney Houston biopics and delighted social media with #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies.
    The show is just the latest in NBC's live productions, which have included "The Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan." The network has worked hard to ease fans on down the road of great expectations.
    The star-studded African-American cast includes Queen Latifah, "Glee's" Amber Riley, singer Mary J. Blige, rapper/actor Common and "Orange is the New Black" actress Uzo Aduba. Stephanie Mills, who originated the role of Dorothy on Broadway, appears in the role of Aunt Em for the telecast.
    The script for the live TV event was adapted from the Broadway musical, and Mills told NBC News that she is thrilled to be part of the new production 40 years later.
    "I feel like I'm making history all over again playing Aunt Em," Mills said. "With the song 'The Feelings We Once Had,' I've heard it a thousand times, but I never sang it before, and it's wonderful, because now I am an aunt and I am a mother, and I'm really, really proud because the story is so wonderful and beautiful."
    But one of the savviest moves the network made was by casting a virtual unknown in the lead role.
    Shanice Williams, 18, is a New Jersey native who has spent the past few years doing local theater. She told E! the advice she's been getting the most is to "stay humble."
    "I keep getting that. I'm happy," she told E!. "Stay humble, live in the moment and take everything one step at a time."
    A video of Williams and Mills singing "Home," the show's iconic tune, went viral.
    Excitement has been high leading up to Thursday night's airing.
    "The Wiz Live" airs at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC.