Monthly Archives: December 2011

Oz in the News 12.31.11

Musical of the Month: “The Wizard of Oz” and Victor Herbert   Like any musical, The Wizard of Oz did not live in isolation. It constituted one point in a theatrical web of interactions between producers, writers, and players. Victor Herbert’s direct connections to the show through Fred R. Hamlin, Julian Mitchell, Glen MacDonough, Fred Stone, and David Montgomery resulted in two of the composer’s most celebrated early works, Babes in Toyland and The Red Mill.

‘Wicked’ offers a twist on one of the most beloved American stories  At the time Stephen Schwartz, 63, became aware of Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” Schwartz had sworn off Broadway. The composer, who launched his career with the Broadway hits “Godspell” (1971) and “Pippin” (1972), spent the 1990s writing music for animated films such as “Pocahantas,” for which he won two Academy Awards. But Schwartz said he knew as soon as he read “Wicked” that he yearned for Broadway again. “I found the idea of ‘Wicked’ irresistible,” he said. “The notion that someone thought to make the Wicked Witch of the West, quintessentially evil, the protagonist, appealed to me. I enjoy taking characters we know from another work and spinning them a bit.”

All Things Oz in Chittenango celebrates life and stories of L. Frank Baum   “This summer, we are featuring an exhibit which will be the ‘Top of the Line’ for Oz enthusiasts to see,” Evans said. The directors are keeping this surprise tightly guarded for now but plan to announce this “major attraction” soon. Curators are constantly preparing new features and bringing in new collections. “Each time someone visits they will find something new and exciting,” Zimmer said. Unlike Dorothy, the volunteers are not able to click the heels of their ruby slippers to obtain what they are seeking. While many have contributed, the museum needs more benefactors to flourish. It costs close to $2,000 monthly just to pay the rent and utilities and that does not include any funds to help the museum grow. One way that individuals can help save this museum is through the “It Takes Two” campaign. “We are asking Oz fans everywhere to send $2 to us,” Zimmer said. “In return, your name will appear in the ‘All Things Oz’ exhibit and on the It Takes Two club sign to be housed permanently in the museum.

Oz in the News 12.29.11

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Ridgecrest anymore  In honor of his his iconic Munchkin friend, Jerry Maren ,the center (Lollipop Guild Kid you see in 1939 film, who hands Dorothy the Lollipop), Lyle Gregory dedicates the Ridgecrest 2011 Historic Oz House Presentation to Maren who is now 91 years old, and the last surviving male Munchkin from The Wizard of Oz. The colorful 3D Munchkin Land scenes you will see this year at The Historic Ridgecrest Oz House is the creation of Lyle Gregory and his Brother and business partner Noli Laqui and Laqui’s eight children. The Oz murals are an official gift from the People of Philippines to the People of Ridgecrest and to The State of California.

Peekskill’s L. Frank Baum – OZ Connections  We know that the Peekskill’s roadway paved with yellow bricks existed at Peekskill at least in the 1830s. In his arrivals and departures from Peekskill, either by train or steamboat, this yellow brick road was convenient, busy and always visible. An observant and sensitive young Frank Baum may well have noticed the road of yellow pavement as it connected Peekskill to the outside world, and as a passageway to his home in upstate New York. His several comings and goings into and out of Peekskill during his two years experience at Peekskill apparently remained stored in his mind for future use.

Dorothy and the Witches of Oz: New Title, New Stills, New Release Date  Though Witches of Oz has already received a DVD release in the UK and been released in a longer mini-series format in parts of Europe, Palace/Imaginarium have given the film a minor title change and will be giving a feature-length cut of the film with upgraded special effects a theatrical run in February with an American DVD release to follow. A new trailer reflecting these changes is due to hit the web shortly after the New Year.

Oz in the News 12.28.11

Soviet Wizard of Oz at the Staatsballett Berlin   A new ballet is being performed in Berlin that is based on the Soviet version of the “Wizard of Oz.” It is the only version of the Oz stories that most people in Russia and the Eastern bloc countries ever knew.

The Wizard of Oz, Philharmonic Hall  The RLPO is experienced at this kind of thing, because apart from this being the third time in those five years it has performed Oz, it has also got an extensive back catalogue of film work with Carl Davis, playing for silent movies including the 1927 version of Napoleon, and others, including classics by Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. And to add to the festivities, ahead of the matinee screening there’s also a Wizard of Oz fancy dress competition with entrants being judged in the hall and with prizes to be won. Previous years have seen a witches, Dorothys, tin men and even the scarecrow.

Merry Christmas from the Land of Oz!

Oz in the News 12.25.11

Eric Shanower (photo courtesy of

Eric Shanower’s Road To Oz   Travel down the Yellow Brick Road with award-winning cartoonist Eric Shanower as he presents words and images from his many Oz projects through the years. Laugh as Shanower discloses his childhood efforts to channel the magic of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. Cheer as Shanower details his struggles to find a publisher for his early Oz comics. Sigh with relief as Shanower extolls his collaboration with Skottie Young on their New York Times best selling series of Oz graphic novels. Don’t miss this unique peek behind the curtain of today’s Oz comics and illustration.  Please join us at the Cartoon Art Museum on Thursday, January 19, 2012 from 7:00-9:00pm for this special presentation.

The Santa Claus of Two Worlds  Life & Adventures, based on a book by Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, was released in 1985 and was the last of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion specials. Oddly enough, it’s one of the more obscure specials, too. It’s only available in one of those print-on-demand Warner Archive discs as a double-feature with Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. That said, it is awesome. And it definitely tells you a lot about Santa Claus, like how he was weaned on the milk of a lioness, raised by immortals who taught him to speak the language of birds, and learned of man’s inhumanity to man by being astrally projected to Japan to watch children train to kill each other as samurai. For some reason, none of that stuff got a mention in “Comin’ to Town”. One thing they do have in common, though — and just about the only thing — is that Santa Claus enters the story as a foundling. In Life & Adventures, he just shows up one morning in the Forest of Burzee, and Comin’ to Town implies that he has parents that we never see. Personally, I believe that Thomas and Martha Claus were walking down Crime Alley one night when a mugger stepped out of the shadows and demanded money to buy toys, but that’s probably just me.

L-W North Varsity Phoenix Firebirds headed to state competition The Lincoln-Way North High School Varsity Phoenix Firebirds are headed to state after capturing 1st place at the Wheaton Warrenville South competition this past weekend (Dec. 17). The 17-member squad delivered a high-powered, crowd-pleasing poms routine with a Wizard of Oz theme. The squad will head to Peoria in March for the state competition.

Oz in the News 12.22.11

KZN’s very own screen wizard   THE classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland has been described as the world’s most popular film, seen by more people — over a billion — than any other. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked it the 10th “Greatest Movie of All Time”.So perhaps it’s worth remembering that the main scribe involved in the film’s screenplay was a South African, Noel Langley, who was born in Durban on Christmas Day in 1911, 100 years ago. Langley is credited with the adaptation from L. Frank Baum’s original book (itself a classic, published in 1900) and shares the script credit with Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. Langley’s story is told in “Noel Langley and Co: Some South Africans in Showbiz Abroad”, a paper by Stephen Gray that will be published next year.

Wizard of Oz comes to India  A team of ten puppeteers from the Delhi-based group Puppet Studio have come together to bring to life the iconic characters created by L Frank Baum in his classic children’s novel, The Wizard of Oz. “ The play uses two kinds of puppetry traditional Dumkaroo puppets, where characters are made of thermocol and animated with rods. Contemporary glove puppetry has also been incorporated into the story telling.
Actors lip sync and use modulation to bring to life the American fantasy, which has been adapted for Indian audience. A medley of 10 songs has been made to take you through different moods and scenes. The songs have been written by Amit Gupta, 25, a software engineer, while city based band, The Outliner, has set them to peppy jazz tunes.

Young Santa Claus  Santa Claus: The Musical follows the basic outline of Baum’s book with select edits and embellishments to heighten the story’s dramatic arc. The baby Claus is abandoned in the woods, discovered by a woodsman named Auk (Greg Dulcie), and left in the care of a kindly sisterhood of nymphs. The grown-up Claus (Christopher Deaton) ventures out of his sylvan idyll into the real world, where children suffer from both grueling poverty and buzzkilling grown-ups known as the AWGWAs (Awful Wicked Gruesome Wretched Adults), who wish to destroy all the toys in the land. The main villains are the Baron Braun (Paul Grant), a corrupt sheriff who secretly loves a stuffed pig named Mr. Snouty, and the evil Frost Queen (Cara Statham Serber), who works overtime to keep the village kids unhappy. The show’s score contains a mix of familiar hymns and carols with new lyrics by Sturgeon and Jim Wren and completely new tunes with music by Wren and Joe O’Keefe.

Oz in the News 12.21.11

Exclusive: Bruce Campbell IS in Oz: The Great And Powerful  “The scene that I shot was a page [of the script] and it took all day. It was great to see the scope of Oz and to see the detail, and the craftsmanship and the professionalism and the incredible stuff that they’re doing visually in every other way. I play a pivotal role. It involves me and Oz – that’s James Franco – and let’s just say that we have a confrontation. It was a very fun role to do actually.”

Oz in the News 12.20.11

Munchkin Items Fetch A Small Fortune At Hollywood Auction The Munchkins from The Wizard Of Oz were all the rage at a Hollywood auction on Friday (16Dec11) after two items sailed way past the prices they were expected to fetch. An original Munchkin soldier hat and soldier jacket went under the hammer for $13,000 (Gbp8,100) and $30,000 (18,750), respectively. Bidding for the hat was twice what was expected and the jacket was tipped to fetch $20,000 (Gbp12,500).

Oz in the News 12.16.11

Studio X presents its tribute to ‘Wicked’   In two shows on Saturday at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Minot State University, Studio X – A New Generation of Dance will be presenting homage to that work with “Wicked, The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, A Dance Tribute to the Smash Broadway Musical.” “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first saw it,” said Studio X owner and artistic director Josh Wise. Wise spent quite a bit of time figuring out the best way to make the story comprehensible with dance and music alone — and without infringing copyright. “Let’s say I’ve spoken often with their lawyers,” he said.

Judy Redux :: talking with Garland biographer John Fricke “You look at everything she accomplished and wonder how she managed to get that into 47 years? Thirty-four feature films plus the short subjects, thirty of her own TV shows, plus thirty TV guest appearances and 1,100 concerts… 300 radio shows and a hundred singles and a dozen or more albums. This was preceded by hundreds of appearances in vaudeville and on local radio with her sisters. That was all before she was thirteen. That’s a real litany.”

Walking into a collector’s house, walking into the ’50s A flamingo hangs on the front door, leading into a house full of Americana and 1950s memorabilia. The first thing you notice is the large “Wizard of Oz” collection in the entryway. Oz figurines, toys, lunch boxes, board games and pairs of ruby red slippers line the walls and sit on shelves. The movie is one of Adams’ childhood favorites. She remembers figuring out the messages in the film and has had a soft spot for it ever since.

Randolph sign language interpreter adds a new dimension to `Oz’ performance  “Signing the music is my favorite part of signing. Most people beg me to teach them a little sign once they know I’m a signer.”  Specifically for Oz, she describes her techniques: “I sign `voices soft’ or `a tornado, wind blowing’ or `girl screams’ as best I can in the moment of the scene. There aren’t translations for everything – a lot of it is transliterating: translating words into an artistic expression. Artistic performance interpreters get to play with the descriptive expressions. There’s so many words/phrases that don’t exist. I have to be clear on what is happening, while trying to keep the play on words and meaning accurate.”

Image Comics puts on its Own Show for Anniversary   Image Expo, a three-day convention focusing on creator-owned comics, is to be held on February 24, 25, and 26, 2012 in Oakland, California. The convention will commemorate the independent publisher’s twentieth anniversary. The show’s special guests include Image partners Robert Kirkman, Todd McFarlane (Spawn) and Jim Valentino (ShadowHawk), as well as co-founders Whilce Portacio (Wetworks) and Rob Liefeld (Young Blood). Other guests are Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, who are parterning on a new Image series, Saga, which will debut in 2012; Joe Casey (Gødland), Jay Faerber (Near Death), Jonathan Hickman (The Nightly News), and Richard Starkings (Comicraft). Stephenson confirmed some new additions to the guest list — Blair Butler (Attack of the Show!), John Layman (Chew), Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze), and Nick Spencer (Morning Glories).

Oz in the News 12.14.11

First Look: Dorothy’s House from the Wizard of Oz Pinball Machine  The Witch’s legs are expected to appear when the house stops spinning and look to be attached to the back of the house’s front wall.  This wall pivots about its base to hide or show the legs.   Whether that pivoting happens as a result of the centrifugal force created when the house spins, or whether there is some external impetus to get it to happen isn’t yet known.  Jersey Jack Pinball (JJP) have said that the player has to achieve something in order to make the legs appear, so it may require physically activating. The house is expected to have decals applied to recreate the various windows, doors and wall and roof textures seen on the earlier version.  It has been made out of metal to provide the durability needed when it spins rapidly, while the aluminium construction should keep the weight down, requiring a less power-hungry (and heavy) motor.

Musical of the Month: The Wizard of Oz (1903)   Like many who spent their early childhood in those years before home video technology (VCRs, DVDs, Netflix, etc.) became ubquitous, I have fond memories of watching the annual television broadcasts of the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz with my family.  Unlike most children, though, I spent much of my later childhood obsessed with the story.  As a six year old, I became a card-carrying member of The International Wizard of Oz Club, read all 14 Oz books by L. Frank Baum, and hunted in used-bookstores for the additional authorized books by Ruth Plumly Thompson, Jack Snow, and Dick Martin.  I vaguely knew that there were dramatic adaptations of The Wizard of Oz before Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr followed the yellow-brick road, but living as I did in the Midwest in those days before the commercial Internet, I suspected I would never get a chance to read or see them.

Oz Revisited   To the extent that Oz is a stand-in for America, Maguire offers so ugly a vision of it that most readers would turn away in disgust–were it not for the playful charm of the whole thing.  We can have our innocence and eat it too in Maguire’s Oz. As to where this dire view of America comes from, that part seems easy enough. This is pretty much the view of the country propagated by the academy for a generation or two.