Monthly Archives: August 2016

Oz in the News 8.31.16


The actors who played the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz were paid less than Toto  For their presence in what is likely the most iconic American film in the history of cinema, the citizens of Munchkinland were paid less than Dorothy’s dog, Toto. In the years following The Wizard of Oz, little people have made many strides forward in Hollywood, but the recent death of cabaret actress, Kimberly Tripp – known as ‘Mini Kim Kardashian’ – reveals the uncomfortable pace of evolving showbiz attitudes. Stephen Cox, author of The Munchkins of Oz, wrote in his 1989 book that in 1938, the Munchkins were paid US$50 per week, about US$900 in 2016. Meanwhile, Toto and her trainer earned US$125 per week, which would now equate to about US$2,100 per week.  The Munchkin cast never even saw their names in the credits.

THEATER CLOSE-UP: THE WOODSMAN  The Woodsman premieres Friday, September 2 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN, with an encore presentation on Sunday, September 4 at 1 a.m. The play will also air Sunday, September 4 at 10 p.m. on WLIW21. The unique collaboration between THIRTEEN and the large community of New York City area Off-Broadway theaters is captured live on-stage in partnership with streaming service BroadwayHD, in THIRTEENs trademark up-close” style. Based on the beloved writings of L. Frank Baum, The Woodsman, an imaginative retelling of the origins of Oz’s Tin Woodsman, is the story of the Tin Man, the woman he loved, and the witch that would stop at nothing to keep them apart. Through spectacular life-size puppetry and original music, the ensemble of Strangemen & Co. presents an inventive take on one of America’s original fairy tales. The Woodsman concluded its critically-lauded Off-Broadway run in May at New World Stages. Time Out New York described it as evocative and hauntingnaming it a Critics Pick; NBC New York called The Woodsmanan “achingly beautiful play,” and The New York Times declared The Woodsman “breathtaking,” “abundantly beautifuland a spectacle infused with breath and light.” New York Magazine exclaimed, Marvelous! Overflows with vivid imagery and emotion” and Rosie O’Donnell heralded the production on Twitter as “beautiful, stunning, haunting. The Woodsman premieres Friday, September 2 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN, with an encore presentation on Sunday, September 4 at 1 a.m. See more full episodes and previews from Theater Close-Up.

Oz in the News 8.30.16

nbc-emerald-cityEmerald City Premiere Date Announced  Swept up into the eye of a tornado, 20-year-old Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona) is transported to another world — a mystical land where an all-powerful ruler (Vincent D’Onofrio) governs over one kingdom, has outlawed magic, and faces not only the wrath of a growing cauldron of witches but a looming disaster brought on by a mythical force. Epic, romantic and fantastical, “Emerald City” is an empowering tale of a young woman finding her true strength and identity even as she battles to bring a divided world together. With 14 books in L. Frank Baum’s series about the Land of Oz, there’s certainly plenty of material to work with. Emerald City will arrive on Friday, January 6th with a two hour premiere event from 9-11 pm.

Oz in the News 8.26.16

downloadWatch Broadway’s Oz Music Video, Fusing Wizard of Oz and The Wiz  The Oz Project, a love letter to The Wizard of Oz and The Wiz, was created and performed by Broadway’s diehard Oz fans, including Kate Rockwell,Joshua Henry, Rob McClure and more. The video has been released—on the same date The Wizard of Oz hit movie theatres nationally in 1939. The ten-minute music video follows the parallel journeys of Dorothy in each adaptation as they both get whisked away in the same tornado, land in their respective versions of Oz and follow their own yellow brick road. Their stories are interwoven with highlights from each classic score. “People need to focus on their similarities instead of harping on their differences—and support each other instead of trying to take each other down,” says The Oz Project director Sean Barrett. “It doesn’t matter your gender, race, sexuality, or religion—we all travel the same yellow brick road of life searching for the same things—love, wisdom, home and the courage to be yourself without abandon. The story and morals are the same, no matter which version is told. Dorothy and her friends are examples for all of us.”

Clarksville planning world-record attempt during ‘A Day in Oz’ festival  The city of Clarksville will resemble a scene from “The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday when the streets become filled with prancing Munchkins, green witches and lots of Dorothys, scarecrows, tin men and cowardly lions. And Totos, too. Clarksville will be the site of the second annual “A Day in Oz” festival — an event that met with great success last year when more than 3,000 visitors filed into the 442-population town for a rousing event that earned high praise from participants. On June 13, 2014, in Grand Rapids, Minn., 1,093 people dressed as Oz characters showed up for the movie’s 75th anniversary celebration outside the Judy Garland Museum. Bishop thinks Clarksville has a good shot at beating the record because the community is planning lots of local attractions in hopes of drawing a bigger crowd. At least one judge from the Guinness Book of World Records will be in Clarksville to observe and verify the record-breaking effort. More information is available at Clarksville’s “A Day in Oz” Facebook page.

Oz in the News 8.15.16


‘Almost’ ready for the big screen  One hundred local people are on their way to the big screen. They are the cast of Myron Smith’s locally produced films, which will be part of the Virginia Sweded Film Festival. A Sweded film is a condensed, low-budget version of a popular movie. Smith, his cast and his crew have made versions of “Almost Famous,” “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Each film runs between 15 and 20 minutes, Smith said. They will be shown together. The First Annual Virginia Sweded Film Festival is coming Oct. 1, at the Historic John D. Bassett Event Center. Filming was done around Martinsville. The Kansas scenes for “The Wizard” were filmed at Infinity Acres. Once in Oz, Dorothy met the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion along the Silver Bell Trail. The witch’s castle in “Wizard” was inside Piedmont Arts. That worked out well, Smith said, because “the guards surrounded people from upstairs and downstairs.” The large mobile gave the feel of the castle’s chandelier.

Oz in the News 8.13.16

oz_020 Years Ago, Kansas City’s Wizard Of Oz Theme Park Turned Out To Be Just A Dream  At first, Robert Kory’s Oz theme park was planned for Wyandotte County, where leaders funded a feasibility study that showed the numbers looking good. Kory engaged North Hollywood-based theme park designer Landmark Entertainment Group and hoped to have a $500 million park and resort open by early 1996. But NASCAR had its eyes on the same land, so the proposed deal went south, to DeSoto. More than 9,000 acres were available cheap at the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, toxic from its 50 years producing rocket and small-arms propellants; also on the property, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, were “laboratories, a wastewater and drinking water treatment plant, power plants, disposal areas… and burning areas for destruction of explosives-contaminated material.” In other words, the perfect location for a theme park, hotel, housing development and golf course!

Oz in the News 8.12.16

UntitledThe yellow brick road leads to Mapleton for Oz Fest  After a humble four years of hosting Oz Fest in Butler Haynes Park and drawing a crowd of a few hundred local people, the Hollis Park District was inundated with an explosion of attendance in 2015 — they stopped counting when the number eclipsed 5,000. Following the 2014 edition of the festival, posts on the event’s Facebook page became more frequent and a Google search of Oz festivals yielded the Mapleton one near the top. “For something that was supposed to be just for kids, it has really exploded,” said Jim Robertson, director of parks and recreation for the Park District.

What happens when your whimsical ‘Wizard of Oz’ obsession actually pays off?  At just 31, Todrick Hall has already had an extraordinary career — one that exemplifies the creative possibilities of the Internet Age. Through parody videos, creative covers and the occasional original song, Hall has transformed himself from “American Idol” has-been to YouTube demigod, amassing tens of millions of views on several videos and more than 2 million subscribers to his channel. A-listers such as Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift have appeared in his videos, and Swift and Beyoncé make cameos in recorded segments of Hall’s tour. He has his own eponymous MTV reality show and a spot on the judging panel for “RuPaul’s All Star Drag Race,” which returns Aug. 25. His visual album “Straight Outta Oz,” which he wrote and produced, was the second-best-selling on iTunes for a week in June — just behind Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” “For me to be an African American gay man on the top of the charts next to Beyoncé’s album is a huge accomplishment,” he says.

Oz in the News 8.10.16

57a3f32d1522c.image‘Oz’ expert has full, wonderful world of a career  “I’ve really been lucky to do what I love,” Mr. Fricke said this week from his longtime New York City home. He’ll give a talk next Thursday at the Figge on the making of the beloved 1939 MGM movie, and Aug. 13, he’ll introduce two showings of the film at the Adler Theatre. He adores Garland in all her performances because “she’s so real and she’s so honest.” “From the time she was a little girl, a 13-year-old girl sang like a 30-year-old woman,” Mr. Fricke said. “One reason she endures today, she was never acting. In other movies, in concert, you can see Judy Garland is just being. Holy cow, nothing gets in the way of her communication with the audience.” In a three-minute song, “you were getting honesty, and warmth and humor and emotion,” he said.

Oz-Struck: Historian John Fricke Takes “Wizard of Oz” Fans Over the Rainbow at the Figge and Adler  “I was acting out the Oz story in the living room from the time I was five years old,” he says, right before referencing one of Garland’s most beloved torch songs. “And I was the only first-grader in Milwaukee who wasn’t singing ‘Old MacDonald.’ I was singing ‘I’m gonna love you like nobody’s loved you come rain or come shine.’ There weren’t many first-graders who could follow me – tearing myself to shreds on that little Johnny Mercer lyric.” But few such fanatics are able to turn those obsessions into actual careers, which is just what Fricke has done over the past three decades. At age 11, he joined the International Wizard of Oz Club (now at, a group for which Fricke serves as one of the elected directors-at-large for 2016. “I edited the club magazine,” he says of his early years with the organization. “I was one of its officers. And this was not a kids’ group. I mean, there were kids in it, but it’s also been a lot of first-edition-book collectors and art collectors … .”

Oz in the News 8.3.16

tn-500_7459First Look at Character Shots of the Non-Professional Production of WICKED in Sydney  Packemin Productions and Riverside Theatres are defying gravity in their production of WICKED, now playing through August 13, 2016. Lead by a professional cast consisting of Wayne Scott Kermond (Singin’ in the Rain, Anything Goes) as the as the comedic Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Ashleigh O’Brien as the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, Mikayla Williams as Glinda The Good and Linden Furnell (Rent, Violet) as the handsome Fiyero.

A robot tale’s wound down by narration  Based on the character created by L Frank Baum in “The Marvellous Land of Oz” and “Ozma of Oz”, Surachai wrote “The Adventure of Tik-Tok, Man of Oz” in Thai and Bangkok-based English actor James Laver, who also portrays the title character, translated it into English. For the first 10 minutes or so, the script takes the audience back to the story most of us know, that of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, and then tells how Dorothy travelled back to the nearby Ev, where she met Tik-Tok. A major flaw here is there is so much narration that it sounds and feels as if we’re listening to someone telling the story, some parts of which are acted out, instead of watching a play filled with dramatic actions. And in terms of stage adaptation, there’s another question: how this story is relevant to us here and now, rather than just being a lesser known story that’s stage-worthy. The play is being performed in English, with English and Thai surtitles, and herein lies another problem. It reminded me of news clip where someone is speaking English with an accent and English subtitles are put on as if he’s not speaking English. Given that Surachai’s creations of Tik-Tok’s costume and mechanism are such a delight, I wonder whether the play would deliver its messages, especially to the children, were the play performed in Thai.

Could Todrick Hall’s Straight Outta Oz Become a Broadway Musical? “I think it would be disrespectful to try to bring what I put on YouTube to Broadway, but I think the overall essence of it is something that could come there,” he says. Yet Hall knows that another Wizard of Oz story must add something to the conversation to be viable. “I don’t want to go to Broadway and do another Wizard of Oz show that doesn’t bring anything new to the community. I want it to be a show that changes people’s lives.” Hall also believes his show takes a step towards reuniting Broadway and pop music. “I think that’s what Broadway was to begin with,” he says. “The music that people were listening to on the radio was the same music that they were singing on Broadway. Somewhere along the line, people got this concept that Broadway had to be old-school and always tap dancing to old school music that sounded like it was in the ’40s and ’50s. I don’t know where that happened, and my goal is to play a very small part or whatever part I can play in making that not a fact anymore.”