- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - NBC has found the young woman who will ease on down the yellow brick road.

The network Wednesday unveiled newcomer Shanice Williams from New Jersey as its Dorothy for the Dec. 3 live production of “The Wiz Live!” She later told The Associated Press that she’s ready for the challenge.

“Right now I’m just ready to jump in and show the world what I have to offer because I’ve been waiting for the moment - it feels like forever. I’m only 19 but it feels like so long just asking, ‘How is this going to happen for me?’ So now that it’s finally here, I’m just happy to have this opportunity.”

Williams joins a cast that includes Queen Latifah as The Wiz, Mary J. Blige as the Wicked Witch of the West and David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion.

The show 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 and won seven Tonys, including best musical.

The original Broadway production featured Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Dee Dee Bridgewater as good witch Glinda and Andre De Shields as the Wiz. Mills returned as Dorothy in a 1984 revival.

A 1978 movie version of “The Wiz” starred Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor in those respective roles. Michael Jackson co-starred as the Scarecrow, with Nipsey Russell as the Tinman and Ted Ross as the Lion.

Williams said she idolized Mills and said Ross was amazing in the film, but she wants to make Dorothy her own. “I will always remember how iconic they made the role but I also want to bring myself into it and give Dorothy a little bit of Shanice, you know?”

NBC has revived the live TV musical, scoring nearly 19 million viewers for “The Sound of Music” starring Carrie Underwood in December 2013, although less than half that number tuned in for last year’s “Peter Pan Live!”

NBC’s partner on the TV version will be Cirque du Soleil’s new stage theatrical division, which will then present “The Wiz” on Broadway for the 2016-17 season.

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