“I was just super excited,” admits Mary J. Blige as chat via webcam (watch above) about her being cast as the wicked witch Evillene in “The Wiz: Live.” The nine-time Grammy champ says she was eager to don the pointed black cap because, “it means so much to me, from childhood to now, and just period in our culture.”
Based on L. Frank Baum’s classic novel, “The Wiz” won the Tony for Best Musical in 1975 and was adapted into a 1978 film, both of which starred Mabel King as the wicked witch. Blige made the role her own by “just channeling what I already knew, which is everybody has an Evillene.” While she looked to King for inspiration, mostly she looked at “life, and how it can actually bring the Evillene out of you.”
Blige, who reaped a Critics’ Choice TV Award nomination for her performance, says she was delighted with the staging of the show-stopping number “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” “It’s not just about singing the song,” she explains. “You have to channel the witch.” Her costume, she adds, “helped me to be more wicked and evil, because it was so heavy and so hot.”
And she praised the rest of the cast, which included Elijah Kelly as the Scarecrow, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, and newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy. “Everyone was so welcoming.” she says. “I’ve never done a Broadway musical, and to have Ne-Yo and David and everyone be so supportive from the beginning meant so much to me.”
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