‘Wizard of Oz’ fest takes Southland down yellow brick road “Dorothy’s story is a journey that everyone can relate to,” said Ryan Jay, a film critic and Oz historian who hosted interviews on stage at the event. “No matter how much the world changes in terms of technology, her experience remains universal.” He said it’s appropriate for the Wizard of Oz Fest to be held in the Chicago area because it’s where L. Frank Baum wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which was first published in 1900. Besides the 1939 film based on the novel, Jay said the Oz stories continue to spawn different adaptations, including an upcoming film based on the popular Broadway show “Wicked.” Baum went on to write 13 more novels based on the Land of Oz, including “Return to Oz,” which was adapted as a live action film by Disney and released in 1985. Emma Ridley, one of the stars of that film, was at Odyssey signing photos of the character she played, Princess Ozma. “It’s so great seeing the next generation of Oz fans,” she said. The British-born actress said she has had fun being part of the Oz family and traveling to conventions around the country. Also at the event was Mary Ellen St. Aubin, whose late husband, Parnell St. Aubin, starred as one of the 124 “munchkins” in the 1939 film. “It’s been very interesting,” St. Aubin, 96, said of representing her husband during Oz events. “I get to meet new people every year.”
New musical adaptation of ‘Wizard of Oz’ Munchkins and monkeys and mice, oh my! These creatures and more fill the Orinda Community Center Park Amphitheater as the story of “Wizard of Oz” unfolds through Aug. 12. Presented by the Orinda Starlight Village Players, this show is a new musical adaptation by Malcolm Cowler, who also directs. The multitalented Cowler also wrote the lyrics for the 10 songs and created a three-dimensional land of Oz using RPG computer graphics. The clever graphics, which fill the backstage wall, add much to the production. Christopher Kula and Ray Christensen composed the music, while Jill Gelster and Marian Simpson did the costumes with help from East Bay Children’s Theater and Bay Area Stage.