Haven't heard of Shanice Williams? That's about to change. The newcomer is taking on the role of Dorothy in NBC's The Wiz Live, a role that has been played by the likes of Stephanie Mills, Diana Ross and Ashanti.
"She is amazing. This kid is unbelievable," Queen Latifah told E! News. "So talented and so sweet, down to earth, and she is nailing it. I really just see her as Dorothy now. She has reeled me in…I'm there."
Williams, an 18-year-old New Jersey native, was cast in the role in August after an open casting call. Director Kenny Leon happened to be there when she came in and immediately informed the show's producers.
"We couldn't think of a star out there that could play the role," executive producer Neil Meron told us, noting the similarities between Mills landing the role on Broadway and Williams with The Wiz Live. "Definitely a star is born. Get ready, America. This is only the first time people are going to be seeing Shanice Williams."
Williams has five years of musical training and has been in local productions of many musical hits including West Side Story and Pippin. She was nominated for best leading actress in a musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse's Rising Star Awards.
"I told her that this is her Dorothy. I don't want her to try to live up to what I did. It's hers. I passed the torch onto her," Mills, who plays Auntie Em in NBC's production, told us.
So what kind of other advice has Williams gotten? "Stay humble," she admitted. "I keep getting that. I'm happy. Stay humble, live in the moment and take everything one step at a time. It does get crazy, there's a lot of pressure. You just have to ease, ease on down the road."
The Wiz Live airs Thursday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)