Oz in the News 12.4.15

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Wiz Comics  I thought the rough cut of the movie I was shown was pretty awful…but you can’t judge a movie that’s only about two-thirds finished. I went home and began figuring out how to boil a 150-page movie screenplay full of music down to a 42-page comic book script with no audio. The whole package — remember, this was to be a slick magazine, not a conventional comic book — was to be 64 pages with a pull-out poster. I forget what they were going to charge for it but it struck me as a bit too pricey. It also struck me as not my problem.

Behind the Scenes of The Wiz With Michael Jackson  “He had seen Charlie Chaplin. He was a great fan of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly,” says Johnson, who is in his early eighties, by phone from his New York home. “So I let him use it … He asked me, ‘Could I do this?’—and then enhanced it.” Jackson’s Scarecrow costume was hot and cumbersome, with a huge curly wig, a hat and vest stuffed with scraps of newspaper, not to mention a painted-on nose. Tony Walton, the film’s production and costume designer, didn’t know Michael was tormented by his brothers’ constant teasing—they called him “Ugly” and “Big Nose.” “He was thrilled to have his nose covered,” Walton says. His costume, stuffed with newspaper and bits of trash bags, was more cumbersome, but Jackson made it work.

What Made the Original The Wiz ‘Wickedly Amusing’  In 1975, when the theatrical version first opened on Broadway, it was an immediate hit. “Purists and adulators of Judy Garland may carp, and one can understand why, but this all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz is a carnival of fun,” TIME declared. “It grins from the soul, sizzles with vitality, and flaunts the gaudy hues of an exploding rainbow.” But what truly made it “wickedly amusing” was that its writers had transplanted the classic story of Dorothy from Kansas into a big city setting without losing “the sense of childlike innocence nor the wonder of revisiting a durable fable.”

‘The Wiz’ Was The ‘Hamilton’ Of Its Day & That’s Part Of Its Lasting Legacy  While Baum may have written an allegory for American populism, Smalls was writing a parable for what it was like to be a black man. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1976, Smalls explained why the music felt so real: because it actually was. “That music — may be you’d call it ‘sophisticated funk’ — is a combination of all the music I ever knew. I wrote it all from my heart. The lyrics — they’re my life story — I became the characters to create the characters. I used everything that happened to me on my way here. And believe me, some of it wasn’t so good before it got turned into a song. I’d take a bad thing and make a song out of it. I’ve made the bad experience work for me and turn it to good. I also turned it into money, and that’s productive, too.”

‘The Wiz’ Vs. ‘The Wizard Of Oz:’ How NBC’s Latest Take On The Musical Updates L. Frank Baum’s Story Even More  The Wiz Live! won’t portray Dorothy as a victim trapped in a strange land, as writer Harvey Fierstein told The Daily Beast he wanted to retool the script to give Dorothy more agency. Here, Dorothy questions why she is doing what she’s doing instead of just floating along and needing her friends to carry her.

Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, and More Will Introduce a Contemporary Oz in NBC’s The Wiz Live!  When Fierstein was offered the chance to rework The Wiz, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. There were questions, he said, that he always had about the Wizard of Ozstory, like, “What happened to Dorothy’s parents and what is her journey and is she just a victim?” Fierstein pointed out that in the original version, everything happens toDorothy rather than Dorothy doing anything herself. In fact, she doesn’t even kill the Wicked Witch, the house just lands on her. “So I made her not a victim,” said Fierstein. “I made her in charge of her own life, and I made it about a real journey to figure something out.” Fierstein even made changes to the conclusion of the tale, taking the plot out of the hands of fate and placed it firmly in Dorothy’s own grip. In the ending of the original, he recalls, she’s totally powerless once again. “I don’t like that sh*t,” said Fierstein. “Hopefully I’m giving a new generation a new thing.”

NBC finally gets it right with The Wiz Live!  Tonight’s broadcast was full of black actors of all different ages, skin tones, and body types playing characters that ranged from saintly to villainous and everywhere in-between (sometimes all at once: Dorothy is probably the most lovable murderer ever written). The show asserted—often explicitly—that these characters are smart, brave, loving, powerful, and beautiful. White audiences take it for granted how often we’re bolstered up by the media we watch. The Wiz Live!sent the same message to black audiences while simultaneously offering up a goofy, heartwarming piece of entertainment for everyone. In other words, The Wiz Live! had courage, heart, brains, and one of the catchiest musical scores ever written. Really, what more could you ask for?

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imaginary beasts to Stage New Take on THE WIZARD OF OZ  When a terrible twister drops Dorothy and her little dog Toto somewhere over the rainbow, they must take a journey of discovery to the Emerald City in order to get ‘Home, sweet home’. But when our young heroine realizes that her Auntie Em has followed her to the Land of Oz the adventures really begin. They will encounter all the well-known characters of the story-the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion-along with a few others, as they embark on a journey of self-discovery. L. Frank Baum‘s beloved fairy tale receives the full Panto treatment when the beasts return with their favorite cold-weather tradition, and audiences of all ages will want to follow the “Yellow Brick Road” to the Boston Center for the Arts to catch Winter Panto 2016: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at the Plaza Black Box Theatre January 9th – 30th.

 

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