Monthly Archives: April 2011

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.

Oz in the News 4.11.11

Sir Tim Rice on WIZARD OF OZ, Disney, GLEE, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY & More “I’m really not deeply involved in the show – I’m just sort of a hired hand. I’ve done a couple of lyrics for Andrew – four, actually. I was just doing me job, really. You know, I never know when I’ve been inspired or not. I mean, sometimes you write a song and you think at the end, “Oh, cool. That one came out quite well.” And, other times, I feel like I’ve really been working my guts out and at the end of the day it’s pretty useless. So, it’s very hard to tell. I don’t think you can analyze stuff – the process – too, too, too much.”

James Franco Excited For Sam Raimi On Oz Movie “I love the idea of working with Sam Raimi again. Sam is a master of combining classic Hollywood character types and storylines and ideas, and then matching that with innovative technology.  I really think he’s going to build an incredible world, but a world where we have room to play and have fun.”

The Wizard of Fu: Fun and laughs for children, by children The Wizard Of Fu is a fun, updated version of the well-known show, The Wizard Of Oz. After landing in the Land Of Fu after a storm, Dorothy from the small town of Kroonstad, goes on a journey to find the Wizard, to help her get home.  All is not well in the land, however. People are missing things. The Lion is missing his courage, Mr Tin has lost his heart, and The Scarecrow has lost his dancing skills.  And, worse yet, Miley Cyrus has lost Hannah Montana and Justin Beiber has lost his voice!

Oz in the News 4.10.11

Classically Trained: Enjoying Oz with a live score Luckily there weren’t any tornadoes that night to impede mine or other Pacific Symphony concertgoers’ progress to the concert hall — just a little rain — before all were met by a mini “yellow brick road” at the entrance. In an authentic touch, the road’s beginning had the same curls Dorothy took her first ruby-slipper steps on as she started her journey to Oz.  Decorating the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall lobby were some “Wizard of Oz”-related artwork, life-size cutouts of the film’s characters and even a man dressed as the Wizard himself.  All of this made for a Hollywood-style symphonic evening, as the Costa Mesa-based orchestra played the score to “The Wizard of Oz” live alongside the iconic 1939 film.

Nominees Announced for 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Comic-Con International (Comic-Con) is proud to announce the nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2011. The nominees, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges, reflect the wide range of material being published in comics and graphic novel form today, from heartfelt autobiographical works to books aimed at kids and teens to deluxe hardcover archival editions. Unlike in past years, superheroes are very much in the minority in this year’s selections.  Marvel Comics’ “The Marvelous Land of Oz” is up for two awards including Best Adaptation from Another Work and Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team.

Vintage Classics launches cover design competition Vintage Classics has launched its fourth cover design competition for children, choosing The Wizard of Oz as this year’s book.  The competition, in partnership with the Times’ Young Times and Random House Children’s Books, will be judged by author Jacqueline Wilson, author and illustrator Louise Yates, Random House creative director Suzanne Dean, Vintage Classics editorial director Laura Hassan and Young Times editor Daisy Greenwell.  It is open to seven- to 12-year-olds, and the new edition with the winning jacket will be published on 3rd November.

Remembering Sidney Lumet and an era of New York filmmaking, director dead at 86 The passing of Sidney Lumet Saturday at age 86 ends an era of New York filmmaking. not that Lumet’s mantle hasn’t been taken up by city filmmakers, but Lumet’s specific way of dealing with the stresses, comedy, kookiness and subcultures among is was rare among directors who came after him.  He re-energized Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens by spending a year and a half filming there for “The Wiz.” But the movie is an ill-fated adaptation of a Broadway fantasia, a Harlem reworking of “The Wizard of Oz,” and though Lumet liked to say he could work in genres, this was one that escaped him.


Oz in the News 4.8.11

THEATRE REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz at Royal Court Liverpool The show opened in Kansas with a barnstorming music and dance version of Cotton Eyed Joe seguing into the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling. It wasn’t the Kansas we knew any more.  Star of the show is comedy veteran Bobby Davro, making his first appearance as Hay-Man, a sort of high-energy Forrest Gump.  The gags flew thick and fast – sample: “I went into PC world this morning – you have to watch what you say in there”.

Starz Animation Toronto, Multiple Media Entertainment, And Gigapix Studios Announce The Commencement Of Production Of An Adaptation Of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz” The film is budgeted at $20 million with Michael Taylor and Drew Craig of MME Executive Producing.  The deal was brokered by Starz Animation’s EVP Jeff Young.  The script was penned by Connor Pritchard (co-creator of the new Comedy Central series Workaholics).  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.” Young adds, “We’re thrilled to now step into the producing role and maximize the strength of our studio on all levels.” Young continued, “Creatively, the OZ3D project is hilarious, perfect for the modern audience and at the same time is respectful of the underlying material.”

BWW Interviews: END OF THE RAINBOW’s Stephen Hagan Everybody who’s seen the play will know Mickey Deans as Judy Garland’s fiancé, but he was actually a very good jazz pianist himself, and he was very musically minded, which isn’t really touched upon in the play. He still kept trying to get vaudeville theatres up and running again, with variety acts, which is something nobody knows about, so obviously he didn’t do a very good job of it. He seems quite cocky, quite arrogant, in the sense that he thought he could bring Judy Garland back to being the big star that she was. But when she was in the state she was in at the end of her life, it’s very hard to change someone.


Oz in the News 4.5.11

Recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s WIZARD OF OZ Available for Pre-Order Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of THE WIZARD OF OZ was recorded and will be released later this year on 2nd May.  The recording, featuring Danielle Hope as Dorothy, Michael Crawford as The Wizard and Hannah Waddingham as The Wicked Witch of the West, can now be pre-ordered from HMV: and

Actors with autism shine in ‘Oz’ parody “We are in no way trying to make light of those features of autism,” said Emily Jensen, a music therapist at the Brideway House and “Land of Oz” director, “but to acknowledge them and bring them into the light and say this is a real thing. This is a thing that exists here in our community.”  Written by the actors themselves, the “Land of Oz” production was designed to be therapeutic.  “It’s being able to embrace and kind of see the humor in it, sensory issues in the straw and all the things like the flexibility. these are characteristics of autism,” said Wignai.

Bette and her Brain Bette Ferguson is donating her brain to science. It’s true. Read about it in a fascinating story by Claire Trageser about Bette and others who are donating their brains to a University of California, San Diego researcher.  I photographed Bette in her Mission Hills apartment. The only view the reader got of her was the top of her head. I thought it was a good way to illustrate the story.  But Bette is a really intriguing woman, and I wanted readers to get a better opportunity to meet her.  Shortly after arriving at her apartment, she dove right into her history. She told me about her five husbands and her work as an extra on The Wizard of Oz.