Oz in the News 7.16.16

ct-ct-ptb-nelson-obituary-jpg-20160715Jean Nelson, Wizard of Oz festival founder, dies at 84  Born in Chicago, Nelson eventually moved to Chesterton with her husband, Robert, who preceded her in death. They opened the Yellow Brick Road Gift Shop and Museum, which inspired her to launch a festival in 1981 dedicated to the classic 1939 MGM film. To draw attention to what was originally a one-day event in the yard of her home, a cottage building where the Yellow Brick Road Gift Shop and Museum was also housed, Nelson decided she needed a “special celebrity guest.” The festival achieved worldwide attention for more than three decades, with an annual operating budget of more than $100,000 during its peak years in the 1990s and attracting more than 90,000 attendees each year. Nelson networked with her Munchkin friends and soon had as many as 15 “little people,” all who had played Munchkins in the original film, attending as honored guests.

Todrick Hall’s ‘Straight Outta Oz’ a thrilling performance  The show manages to feel bright and fun and yet quite thoughtful – a rare and exhilarating combination. And it exceeded, in terms of talent and design, some of the national touring musicals that stop at the Saroyan Theatre. Instead, it squeezed into the intimate Tower Theatre with a cast of 18 top-notch performers, making it easily the most successfully ambitious thing I’ve seen staged at the venue. Sure, the stage is tiny and there were some sound and technical issues Thursday night, but overall I was impressed with the scope and impact.

THE WIZ LIVE’s Paul Tazewell, Derek McLane & Neil Meron React to Emmy Nominations  NBC’s THE WIZ LIVE garnered six Emmy Award nominations including Outstanding Production Design (Derek McLane), Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program (Paul Tazewell), Outstanding Makeup and Hair For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program, Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special and Outstanding Technical Direction For A Variety Special.

The Girl Who Owned a Bear Review “The Girl Who Owned a Bear,” adapted by Jonathan Josephson and directed by Paul Millet, is based on a short story by L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz.” What many people may not know about Baum is that he was an ardent women’s rights and suffrage advocate. It’s not an accident he would have strong girls as the leads of his work. Dorothy of “Wizard of Oz” is an outright hero and has served many girls and boys with an image of an adventurous, courageous and bold female. The protagonist of “The Girl Who Owned a Bear,” Jane Gladys Brown (played by Morgan Zenith), is strong in her own way. In what I suspect is a directorial choice, Jane Gladys could be a brat without being a stereotypical one by screaming constantly. I should know. Nonetheless, the story is whimsical and has that famous Baum darkness to it, too.

For summer travel, 6 classic children’s audiobooks  “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’’ by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Anne Hathaway (Audible) Hathaway delivers an extremely capable performance of a classic that has been almost completely eclipsed by the 1939 film version starring Judy Garland, which has become a classic in its own right. The Oscar-winning actress, who seems like a good fit for the central role — the upbeat, can-do Dorothy — does a fine job of bringing the characters to life with a wide range of voices and manners. And she was rewarded for her efforts with a 2013 Audie nomination.

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