Meet the amazing 18-year-old just cast as Dorothy in the ‘The Wiz Live’

OK, so can we just talk for a sec about how excited we are for NBC’s live-action music special of The Wiz? Because we’re pretty darn excited. The musical extravaganza follows the hugely successful Sound of Music Live! in 2013 and Peter Pan Live! in 2014, and ever since we heard last week that Queen Latifah is set to play the all-powerful Wiz and Mary J. Blige will be the Wicked Witch of the West, we’ve been clicking our silver high heels together hoping and praying for more juicy casting info. And now, we finally have it. The role of Dorothy will be played by (drumroll, please!). . . Shanice Williams.

This role will be the first major performance for Williams, who’s only 18 and was selected out of a pool of applicants in an open call, New York Times reports.

“The story of Dorothy has always been about someone new,” casting director Bernard Tesley explained to People back in June. “It feels like the innocence of Dorothy should be a face that we don’t recognize and don’t know.”

Shanice may not have been on the big screen before; however, she has been in The Wiz before. . . in junior high! “I was actually in it my eighth grade year,” a very happy Williams told Today. “And my grandma’s like, ‘Why didn’t you ever [audition] for Dorothy? I’m so mad!’ So here you go Grandma, this is for you!” OH, our hearts.

Along with Queen Latifah and Blige, Williams will be joining David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion and Stephanie Mills as Auntie Em. Mills also played Dorothy in the original Broadway production, so Williams will have a seriously qualified mentor in her midst.

In case you haven’t had the absolute pleasure of experiencing The Wiz for yourself, it’s much like (as you’d probably expect) The Wizard Of Oz; it was adapted from L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, but was placed within the context of African-American culture. The Broadway production first made its debut in 1974 and ran for four years; it was made into a 1978 movie starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, Richard Pryor as the all-powerful Wiz, and Lena Horne as Glinda the Good (talk about star-studded!). Clearly, Williams and the rest of the cast have some big shoes to fill, but we have no doubt they will not disappoint.

“I don’t even know what’s in store, but I feel like this is always what I’ve wanted to do,” Williams told Today about her big on-screen debut. “So I guess I’m ready. I’m ready now.”

If you were thinking, “Wow, Shanice must be the happiest teen, like, EVER right now,” you’re totally right. The moment she discovered she landed the prestigious part was all caught on video, and watching it made us misty-eyed — as did her unbelievably powerful, soulful voice. In the video below, she tells her mom the big news, and it’s seriously adorable. Check it out for yourself, and catch the live special on December 3rd.

(Image via Screengrab/NBC Video)


We’ve got some truly amazing casting news about The Wiz