NBC might need to check whether it has its proper forwarding address on file, because it seems to keep missing the memos saying that The Wiz Live!, its latest excursion into the world of live musical theater, is supposed to be a massively mocked trainwreck like all the ones that have come before. (Even if Peter Pan Live! was actually pretty good.) Having already cast the roles of The Wiz, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Auntie Em with actresses it’ll actually be exciting to see in those parts—Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, and original Wiz cast member Stephanie Mills, respectively—the network has now announced that actor David Alan Grier will be playing the part of The Cowardly Lion, news that completely fails to project the “Oh man, this is going to be awful!” vibe that has become the brand’s bread and butter.
Instead, it’s easy to see how Grier could be pretty great as the Lion, with the former In Living Color star (and Grammy and Tony-nominated musical theater professional) potentially bringing a boundlessly energetic zeal to the part. Sure, there’s some potential for Grier to fall into aggressive silliness, but it’s not like The Cowardly Lion isn’t a part with a built-in buffer for camp. The Wiz Live! is running out of chances to generate mock-horrified word-of-mouth with a completely off-kilter casting choice; it’s going to take one hell of a terrible Dorothy to bring this teetering public mockery/promotional campaign together in the end.