BWW Interview: Harvey Mason Jr. Chats About THE WIZ LIVE!, Working with Shanice Williams and His Upcoming Projects
Harvey Mason Jr. has worked with some of the biggest and brightest stars in the music industry. His work transcends generations and this year he became a household name as the music producer for NBC's THE WIZ LIVE!
For "The Wiz Live!" Harvey Mason, Jr., together with music director Stephen Oremus (The Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots), re-imagined a new hybrid of the show's classic score. They combined new elements with the original Broadway production. A brand new song written by Harvey Mason, Jr., NE-YO, Stephen Oremus and Elijah Kelley called "We Got It," will be performed by NE-YO (Tin Man), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow), Shanice Williams (Dorothy), David Alan Grier (The Cowardly Lion) and The Wiz Live! ensemble.
In honor of NBC re-airing THE WIZ LIVE! on Saturday December 19 at 8/7c, BroadwayWorld sat down with Harvey Mason Jr. to talk about re-inventing the classic music, writing the original song and his upcoming projects!
Check out the full interview with Harvey Mason Jr. below!
THE WIZ LIVE! was such a huge success for NBC. How was it tackling the classic music?
It was an exciting challenge. It was really important that we bring a freshness to the music while still remaining true to the original compositions. Our challenge was to get a lot of music done and do it in a way fans of the original would be happy yet people who had never heard the show before loved the songs and the production
As the music producer for The Wiz Live! what did your role entail?
My role was to arrange, record, produce all the music and make sure it was specifically tailored to the artsy that would be singing it and also to make sure we accomplished the story and dynamic goals of the director. I had an amazing partner in Stephen Oremus as music director
Were there any major changes made to the music for this version?
We did all new arrangements and introduced many different styles of music. We wanted each piece to be rethought and fresh. We took a lot of time to make sure everyone was handled with care. People know these songs so we didn't want to mess them up
Can you talk a little bit about the new song?
The new song was the idea of our director. He felt we needed to end the act with a bigger moment. He also wanted to see the four friends sing together. We knew what the song needed to accomplish so Elijah, myself and Ne-Yo started putting music and lyric ideas together. Then Stephen Oremus came in and really made it work in the context of the show. I think the new song really added a standing ovation moment
Shanice Williams was amazing as Dorothy! Did you work a lot with her because she was a new talent?
She was incredible to work with. She is new but didn't require too much additional work. I was really impressed with her voice and her poise on stage. I loved the way she told a story vocally and I really like her innocence and love for music
Moving onto your new project SING. This movie sounds like an incredible musical undertaking. How did this project come around?
I have been doing quite a bit of work for Universal and they asked me if I would be interested. So I met with the director and producer and we talked music and it just felt right. I love a challenge musically and with all the numbers in this movie I knew it was going to be some fun work
You produced the soundtrack for STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. Anything to say to NWA regarding the news of them being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
I would say 'congrats!' and that it's well deserved and I'm proud and honored I got the chance to work with the guys on the film
What other upcoming projects do you have?
Still doing a lot of records with artists and also developing some other movie opportunities. Also looking for my next musical challenge
Harvey Mason, Jr is a six-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter, record producer and movie producer. He is one half of the hit-making production team The Underdogs, whose past work includes films such as "Dreamgirls," "The Help," "Pitch Perfect 2" and the recent blockbuster hit "Straight Outta Compton." His work on Jennifer Hudson's first solo album, Chris Brown's "F.A.M.E.," Beyonce's "B-Day," Justin Timberlake's "Justified," Toni Braxton's "He Wasn't Man Enough" and the soundtrack for "Dreamgirls" all resulted in Grammy Award wins. In addition, Mason produced three Academy Award-nominated songs in the same year (2006). He has also produced for Elton John, Whitney Houston, Justin Bieber, Jordin Sparks, Aretha Franklin, Britney Spears, Luther Vandross and Mary J. Blige, to name a few.