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David Alan Grier gives paws to Cowardly Lion in NBC's 'The Wiz Live!'

by jmaloni

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Wed, Aug 5th 2015 04:55 pm

Multitalented Tony nominee heads down Yellow Brick Road as holiday production heats up 

Tony Award nominee and multitalented actor and singer David Alan Grier is joining NBC's holiday production of "The Wiz Live!," set for Thursday, Dec. 3.

Grier will play the Cowardly Lion, who asks Dorothy if he can join her in her journey down the Yellow Brick Road and ask the Wiz for some courage, which he is severely lacking.

Grier is a three-time Tony Award nominee: for his role as Jackie Robinson in the musical "The First"; for co-starring in the David Mamet written and directed drama "Race" opposite James Spader, Kerry Washington and Richard Thomas; and, most recently, for "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," with Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald, for which he was also Grammy nominated. In addition, Grier had a co-starring role in the original Broadway production of "Dreamgirls."

Grier has had an extensive television career and co-starred on one of the seminal comedies of the 1990s, "In Living Color." Other series in which Grier has appeared include "Martin," "Life With Bonnie," "Crank Yankers," "Happy Endings" and "Law & Order: SVU." He is set to co-star in the upcoming NBC comedy "The Carmichael Show," which premieres Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Film credits include "A Soldier's Story," with Howard E. Rollins and Denzel Washington; "Jumanji," with Robin Williams; and the critically acclaimed "The Woodsman" with Kevin Bacon.

NBC recently raised the project's star quotient in a big way by adding award-winners and A-list stars Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige to the telecast.

Queen Latifah stars as the Wiz, the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm. 

Mary J. Blige will play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, who holds sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.

Stephanie Mills was previously announced to portray Auntie Em in "The Wiz Live!" Mills is best known to many for playing Dorothy in the original Broadway production of "The Wiz."

"The Wiz Live!" is adapted from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The production opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including Best Musical.

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("The Sound of Music Live!," "Peter Pan Live!," Oscar-winning "Chicago") will executive produce. Kenny Leon (Tony winner, "A Raisin in the Sun") is stage director and Matthew Diamond is TV director, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, "Torch Song Trilogy," "Hairspray" and "La Cage aux Folles") providing new written material. 

Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson ("Dreamgirls," "Ali") is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. ("Dreamgirls, "Pitch Perfect 2") and Stephen Oremus ("The Book of Mormon," "Kinky Boots") as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.

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