Monthly Archives: April 2011

Oz in the News 4.29.11

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – The True Story, BBC Four  Given that this was a BBC film and not an American production, I was surprised that there was no mention of the fact that our very own precocious but grounded Alice was skipping around Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland some 35 years before dear Dorothy was wafted off to Oz. We were told that Baum loved Dickens, so surely he would also have been aware of Carroll and his similarly absurdist land peopled by unlikely creatures and a headstrong little girl? If Baum hadn’t been painted throughout this documentary as such an innovator this could have been forgiven – but must every corner of history get rewritten to favour our US cousins?

Hollywood reimagines childhood classics with modern sensibilities  “What we have are stories that people have a general knowledge of but don’t know the specifics,” said veteran Hollywood producer Joe Roth, whose Oz movie, “The Great and Powerful,” has James Franco playing a wizard and Mila Kunis a witch. “We believe we can retool and reboot, work out a new story while using technology to our advantage.”   Already, “The Great and Powerful” has caused an Internet firestorm as fans wonder why Hollywood is taking liberties with a classic — although supporters note that “Powerful” will hew closer to Baum writings than the 1939 MGM musical, which sometimes ignored them. Those supporters also point to the Broadway musical “Wicked,” which cleverly reinvented Baum’s mythology with a story about the witches of Oz.  There is room, these advocates say, for new interpretations. “ ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is one of the greatest movies ever made,” Roth said. “We’re not trying to compete with it.”

Oz in the News 4.28.11

Scott Campbell visita el Planeta de los Simios  Robot 6 has Planet of the Apes on the brain lately. Kevin Melrose  just finished a PotA marathon that made me want to start my own and I’m anxiously looking forward to BOOM!’s prequel comic tomorrow. But while talking primates fans wait for that, I thought it might be nice to check out Scott Campbell’s version that also includes King Kong, the flying monkeys of Wizard of Oz, the primates of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Ro-Man Extension XJ-9 from Robot Monster.

Tonight’s TV highlights: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz – The True Story  Anne MacGregor directs this documentary about the life of L Frank Baum, who set out to write the first American fairytale, achieving his goal in 1900 when he finished The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. It’s a thorough account of Baum’s intriguing life, speaking to relatives, literary critics and historians, and it’s boosted by the inclusion of unseen family footage of him, as well as photographs and clips from the three silent-film versions that predated Judy Garland’s Technicolor classic.

John Partridge to Host WIZARD OF OZ Comic Relief Benefit, April 21  THE WIZARD OF OZ is set to host a special Comic Relief gala performance, starring Michael Crawford as The Wizard and Danielle Hope (winner of the BBC’s smash hit Over the Rainbow) as Dorothy, and ‘Dangerous Dave’ – BBC’s Over the Rainbow’s winning Toto. The event will take place at 7:30pm on Thursday 21st April. John Partidge is set to host tomorrow night’s special gala performance of the show.

Oz in the News 4.26.11

Schwartz Feted at Opera Gala  Before singing “Popular,” her signature tune from “Wicked,” Ms. Chenoweth gave some behind-the-music insight on the show. Mr. Schwartz had read Gregory Maguire’s novel on a “snorkeling excursion,” Ms. Chenoweth recalled. He discovered the rights belonged to Universal and Marc Platt. Mr. Platt, a co-chairman of the gala, was very amenable to Mr. Schwartz, considering he had been in a high-school production of “Godspell.” The composer eventually brought on Ms. Chenoweth for a workshop, but, not quite recognizing the appeal of “The Wizard of Oz,” she said she was skeptical at first.  “I had just finished the big hit sitcom ‘Kristin,'” Ms. Chenoweth said of her namesake show, which lasted only six episodes on air. “All I said was, ‘I’m not playing the munchkin.'”

Welcome to Weird: Return to Oz  Ozma’s the rightful queen of Oz and the Scarecrow’s its sovereign for a while. That’s good enough to connect Return to Oz to this week’s royalty theme timed with the King’s Speech’s home video release.  Look at children’s entertainment in the long view: it’s hard not to see it as being on a continually-inclining curve toward safe, defanged political correctness. That manifests as recently as G.I. Joeand Transformers getting away with a lot more manly gunplay in the 80s and it goes as least as far back as Grimm’s Fairy Tales and der Struwwelpeter and their especially-gruesome bedtime stories. The wonderful world of Oz sits somewhere in the middle of that: meaning you can forget all the cutesy comments about how freaky the flying monkeys and apple-fling trees are, because the fantasia of L. Frank Baum’s original books is stranger, scarier and more satirical than the modern reader will expect. Return to Oz pays undoubtedly greater respect to the flavor and look of the world Baum described on paper… and that was maybe to its detriment.

Wizard of Oz Fan Puts Heart, Brains and Courage into Shop   La Mesa cupcake merchant Mindy Roberts has always been “Auntie M.” And her favorite menu offering? Ruby Red Slippers.  That’s a moist red velvet cake with a creamy dollop of cherry-chip cheesecake buttercream and topped, of course, with a bright red cherry.  “All my cupcakes are named after The Wizard of Oz,” said Roberts, who opened Auntie M’s Cupn’Cake Bakery and Gifts in July at 7406 University Ave.  “This is the true grit of the industry,” Roberts proudly says of her baked confections. “It’s shortening and sugar and butter …. It’s the real deal.”

VIDEO: White House Easter Egg Roll  The sun-drenched south lawn of the White House underwent a playground renovation on Monday morning, as the president and first lady kicked off the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Pastel-dressed families from all 50 states (30,000 visitors in total are expected) milled about the grassy landscape, with the Marine Corps brass band playing nostalgic tunes from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Wizard of Oz, before the First Family (including Sasha and Malia, as well as their grandmother Marian Robinson) stepped onto the White House balcony to welcome their guests.

Oz in the News 4.24.11

Hilary Swank, Williams competing for ‘Oz’ role  Sam Raimi has reportedly begun a dispute with Disney Pictures over who to cast as the Wicked Witch of the East in his prequel to The Wizard of Oz.  Vulture claims that while Disney are keen to have Blue Valentine star Michelle Williams take on the role, Raimi himself is set on casting Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank.

Rare glimpse into Garland’s life   A glimpse into the life of film legend Judy Garland is in store for audiences at the London One Act Festival.  The 13th annual festival begins Monday and runs through to Saturday at the Grand Theatre’s McManus Studio.  One of the shows in the fest is The Judy Monologues.  The performance piece is based on rare voice recordings that Garland made for an autobiography that was never written, said the show’s creator, director and actor.  “It really is juicy stuff and I thought this would be a unique way to bring it to people’s attention. It is a rare glimpse into the private thoughts of a Hollywood legend,” said Darren Stewart-Jones.  Stewart-Jones said although the piece doesn’t hide Garland’s problems, it isn’t gratuitous or exploitive either.  “We really pay homage to her. We do it in a respectful way.”  The play is a multimedia production and also includes vintage film footage of Garland from her time in Hollywood.   Kimberly Roberts appears as Garland in silent vignettes. Stewart-Jones, Philip Cairns and Ryan Fisher are also in the monologues.

‘Over the Rainbow’: April 23, 2011, marks golden anniversary of Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall  50 years ago, at 8:30 p.m., Sunday, April 23, 1961, Judy Garland performed her legendary concert at Carnegie Hall.(The overture actually began at 8:40 p.m. EST, according to Garland historian John Fricke.)

Benny Hill theme tune used to calm down violent boozy youths in Leicestershire   IT IS the TV theme tune that evokes images of a saucy slapstick chase.  Comedian Benny Hill would end his programme by pursuing scantily-clad girls – who would then turn the tables by racing after his cheeky character.  But now the theme music from the classic TV show is being used to CALM DOWN boozy revellers in one Midland town.  The famous song is being blasted out at closing time by Vice Versa nightclub in Loughborough, Leicestershire, to keep everyone in a happy mood – and reduce violent outbreaks.  And the venue is also sending clubbers on their merry way home by using other wacky tunes from the Jungle Book and The Wizard of Oz.

Oz in the News 4.23.11

iBook Review: Oz by ArseyBee Productions  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, finds a new home on the iPad this month. Illustrated with the original drawings by William Wallace Denslow; this abridged version of the story looks truly beautiful on the iPad’s screen. The shortened version is very true to the original story, and it will serve as a terrific introduction to the world of Oz for a new generation of readers. Parents can read the story to the very young, and more experienced readers will enjoy discovering the story for themselves.  Each page is bordered with clouds (presumably to remind us that we are indeed in Oz beyond the clouds) and many of the pages contain the beautiful illustrations that Denslow drew for the 1st edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz back in the late 1890s.

‘Wizard of Oz’ is back on Sunday television  You’ll be continuing a tradition that started at 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 1956. Jealous of the success NBC had enjoyed with its broadcasts of “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin in 1955 and 1956, CBS was looking for its own blockbuster. After MGM turned down a request to air “Gone With the Wind,” CBS paid $225,000 — a huge amount in those days — for the right to televise the film and, if successful, to rebroadcast it.  Turns out, successful didn’t begin to describe the response. Shown on an expanded “Ford Star Jubilee,” an estimated 45 million tuned in to watch the beloved L. Frank Baum children’s tale.

Judy: The Musical, Starring Disney’s Belle, Paige O’Hara, Is Moving, If Uneven  O’Hara claims to have been profoundly inspired by Garland even before she, too, became best known for portraying an innocent young woman in a cult classic. And she channels the affectionate, darkly humorous, insecure diva just deliciously, including in song, where she trembles, rasps, and belts with all the charm and most of the rich, brassy pathos of the original.

Red Cross dinner heads to Oz  Held in the cavernous expo center upstairs from the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Caruso was able to create a playful landscape that featured Dorothy’s house, the twister that carries her to Oz, and a Yellow Brick Road that beckoned guests to the Emerald City that was the green-clad dining area.

Oz in the News 4.22.11

Brain Collector Seeks Trump-Like Donors to Probe How Personality Is Formed   One potential donor is 92-year-old Bette Ferguson, who says she worked as an extra on the “Wizard of Oz” movie and, at one point, was strapped into a flying monkey suit when another actor wasn’t available. Her donation allows researchers to study a person whose memory remains perfectly intact, even at an advanced age, Annese said.  Ferguson was born on a World War I troop ship as it sailed back to the U.S., she said in a telephone interview. She recalls vivid details from each of her five marriages.  “I have five children and that’s my legacy, and that’s pretty good,” Ferguson said yesterday, explaining why she decided to sign up for the UC San Diego program. “If I can do more by donating my brain, why not?”

36th ANNUAL JUDY GARLAND FESTIVAL 2011  The complete schedule of events, celebrities and entertainment for the annual Grand Rapids festival.

NAC Orchestra: Linda Eder stars in A Tribute to Judy Garland  In the fifth CTV Pops concert of the NAC Orchestra’s 2010-11 season, NAC Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly leads the National Arts Centre Orchestra and special guest Linda Eder in A Tribute to Judy Garland. This concert takes place in Southam Hall on Thursday May 5, Friday May 6, and Saturday May 7, 2011 at 8 p.m. Be wowed by Judy Garland’s most unforgettable hits as Linda Eder performs some of the most popular musical highlights from Meet Me in St. Louis, Dancing in the Dark, Gigi, Annie Get Your Gun, and, of course, The Wizard of Oz.

We’re off to see a whole new `Wizzard’   A new take on L. Frank Baum’s classic tale “The Wizard of Oz” takes center stage on Saturday for one performance only at the Sturges Center for the Fine Arts.  Written for the stage by Rialto native LaQuette Milner, “Da’ Hip-Hop Wizzard of Oz” modernizes the tale to depict Dorothy as an average teenager who hopes to become a star.  The idea came to Milner in 2003 while driving from Bakersfield to San Bernardino, she said.  “It was like I was hit by lightning and I thought to myself, `Wouldn’t it be great to have a hip-hop version of `The Wizard of Oz?”‘

Oz in the News 4.20.11

Rare Books, Maps, Americana and Autographs to Be Auctioned at Doyle New York  Of interest to young and old alike will be the Fred M. Meyer Collection of L. Frank Baum and The Wizard of Oz. This 30-lot section features a range of rare Oziana and Baum material including John R. Neill’s original typescript and numerous original illustrations for The Wonder City of Oz. The section also includes first editions of several Baum and Wizard of Oz books, original illustrations and typescripts from other Oz authors and artists, and a large amount of rare printed Oz ephemera.

Judy Garland Bio Play End of the Rainbow Headed for Broadway A spring 2012 Broadway transfer is in the works for End of the Rainbow, Peter Quilter’s biographical play about the last days of superstar Judy Garland, according to The New York Times. The play has been running in London since November 2010, starring two-time Olivier Award winner Tracie Bennett as Garland. The star, who received a 2011 Olivier Award nomination for her performance as Garland, will make her Broadway debut as the superstar singer.

BBC Artist-in-Residence liveblogs creation of Kids app on a dare  Working with his wife, Sarah Warsop-Kriel, a designer and dancer, Charkes worked from a set of early 20th century drawings from the classic “Denslow’s Mother Goose”. He then decided what features were necessary and what could be left behind.  “Aside from the adult stoner appeal most children’s media has, my audience was pre-schoolers. That means no Facebook, no Game Center, no networking. And no in-app purchasing. You have to protect the kids, even if it means dropping features. Once you’ve eliminated that feature set, you have a lot of options for fast production.”

Oz in the News 4.19.11

Yip Harburg: Father of the Socially Conscious Lyric  What’s in a name? Apparently Yip’s surname symbolizes his politics, literally. Though born Isadore Hochberg and called Edgar Harburg as a child, he became Yip, not as some believe because of the Yiddish name Yipsel, but for YPSI, an acronym for the Young People’s Socialist League. Harburg himself added: “ I was nicknamed Yips(e)l which is the Yiddish term for a squirrel and evidently I was quite a flighty kid. People around me were very frightened, so I tried to lift them up all the time with games and fun and running.” But, even though Harburg was not a Communist, he did have many friends whose ideologies were to the left. Not surprisingly, he was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and blacklisted from pictures, television and radio in 1950 for more than a decade, largely because he refused to name names of alleged Communist sympathizers for Senator Joe McCarthy‘s committee.

Judy Garland Trivia Quiz iOS App: Multiple Choice   If you are a Judy Garland fan or think you are quite knowledgeable about the actress’s long career in the entertainment business, or you simply like trivia quizzes and own an iOS device, you might like to try out the Judy Garland Trivia Quiz iOS app.  The Judy Garland Trivia Quiz app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and Apple iPad offers the user 119 multiple choice questions along with 50 extra bonus questions in 10 different gaming modes in both single an multiplayer.

Toto Winner in Wizard, Caird’s Challenge  Calling all dog lovers. “Dangerous Dave”, the miniature Schnauzer who won the canine competition on last year’s Over the Rainbow, will make his West End debut this Thursday night (21 April 2011) in a special gala performance of The Wizard of Oz held in aid of Comic Relief at the London Palladium.  Dangerous Dave was chosen personally by Andrew Lloyd Webber in the reality TV contest. At the gala, he’ll play Toto alongside the publicly-voted Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Dorothy in a cast that also features Michael Crawford, Hannah Waddigham, Paul Keating, David Ganly, Edward Baker-Duly.

Oz in the News 4.15.11

It’s Not Kansas Anymore as Wizard of Oz Goes 3D   Starz Animation’s Rob Silvestri will be directing. Previously Rob created and directed the multiple award-winning animated short Ormie and worked extensively on Gnomeo & Juliet and the Tim Burton produced animated film 9.  According to Taylor, “Coming off the tremendous job that Starz Animation Toronto did on the hit CG animated feature film Gnomeo and Juliet, they were undeniably the place to go for world class production talent and experience to execute on such an internationally known and beloved property like OZ.”  “We’re thrilled to now step into the producing role and maximize the strength of our studio on all levels,” Young added, “Creatively, the OZ3D project is hilarious, perfect for the modern audience and at the same time is respectful of the underlying material.”

Boston Pops Need Your Videos for a Virtual Singalong of Somewhere Over the Rainbow  We’ll never be able to out sing Judy Garland, but the attempts ought to be pretty entertaining. The Boston Pops are celebrating its 125th anniversary, and invites all of America to join in a virtual sing-a-long of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” To participate, simply post a video on YouTube of yourself, your friends or whoever singing your own version of the classic, and email the link  along with contact info and geographical location to  People of all ages are welcome (so tape your cute kids) and video submissions are due by Sat., April 26. Videos will be featured on the Boston Pops YouTube channel, on the Boston Pops website, and at Boston Pops performances throughout the season.

Munchkins are the unsung heroes of Wizard Of Oz stage show  “I love the matinée days: once we’ve done the first show, we have a while to wait until the evening show, so we play games on our Nintendos and all get taken out to a restaurant.”  It’s all been a lot of fun – the chaperones, the backstage commotion of costume, hair and microphone fitting, the stars like Michael Crawford, the various dogs playing Toto, and especially the performance itself.  Nerves? Not at all. “It’s the auditions that are scary, and can be quite cruel. The audition was the hardest I’ve ever done.”  Ava was one of some 2,000 applicants for three teams of ten Munchkins performing in rotation, finally landing the part after five or six recalls to further auditions, each lasting up to a day.

Oz in the News 4.13.11

Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘lazy’ ‘Over the Rainbow’ cover Paltrow “is like a PG-rated funhouse mirror of pop culture,” says Drew Grant at Salon. “Hold her up to anything,” and you get an “antiseptic, safe-for-work result that is at best entirely unsatisfying, and at worst, a slap in the face to the source material.” But Garland’s original version of “Over the Rainbow” is already “pretty saccharine,” so there’s only so much damage Paltrow can do.

Blake Lively Chooses Between SAVAGES and OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL In casting Savages, director Oliver Stone lost potential female lead Jennifer Lawrence to The Hunger Games.  Since then, Stone and Universal Pictures have cast out a wide net for young actresses to fill the role including Olivia Wilde, Teresa Palmer, and Blake Lively.  Lively has emerged as the frontrunner to play Ophelia, the kidnapping victim that catalyzes the drug running drama.  The pursuit of Ms. Lively, however may end in the same heartbreak.  Lively is also considering the role of Glinda the Good Witch of the East in Disney’s Oz: the Great and Powerful.  Overlapping schedules this summer will likely preclude the actress from signing on to both films.  Hit the jump for more information on both Savages and Oz.

Epstein, Friedman on board Garland documentary Steven Lippman, the filmmaker who directs music shorts under the name Flip, is heading into pre-production on an indie docu about Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall perf, “Stay All Night,” with exec producers including Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (“Howl,” “The Celluloid Closet”).  Mary Wharton (“Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound”) also is aboard as producer of the film, which offers a look at Garland and her performance skills from the perspective of audience members who attended the Carnegie Hall concert.

Selena Gomez and her boyfriend Justin Bieber  want to remake the Wizard of Oz Selena has apparently been sharing her obsession with the Judy Garland classic with the Baby hitmaker and now they’re both hooked.  “Selena has loved the Wizard of Oz since she was a kid and she’s still obsessed with it,” says a source close to the actress and singer.  “Her dream role would be Dorothy in a remake but she’d settle for a Munchkin just to be in it. Now she’s got Justin hooked on the movie, Selena thinks they may both be contenders for a role.”

Can it all be so merry in the land of Oz? Six weeks into the critically acclaimed run, Crawford and Hope are a little dazzled by one another. Back in the dressing rooms you could cut the atmosphere of mutual admiration with a knife – no, make that a fancy Hummingbird Bakery cake slice. He brings her manuka honey for her throat. She greets him like a favourite uncle and is wide-eyed with wonder at working with such a colossus of musical theatre. But Crawford admits he took a little convincing to take the part as he is sceptical about the plucked-from-obscurity TV genre typified by The X Factor and its ilk.