Monthly Archives: July 2018

Oz in the News 7.28.18

Your Town: An inside look the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center Step inside the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center. One of the first things you’ll notice– the rules — and yes — they are different. “Write on the walls, sit on the furniture, eat and drink, take photos post them please on Facebook and wherever,” Sally Roesch Wagner, Executive Director, explained. Roesch Wagner invited us into the place where Matilda Joslyn Gage once lived with her husband and four children back in the mid 1800’s. Gage’s daughter married L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz. Inside her home, you can find the Oz Parlor which tells their love story. This is the only home in the country where Baum lived that’s open to the public. “Matilda we say is the wonderful Mother of Oz because she is the one that told her son in law that kept going bankrupt write those stories the boys love,” Roesch Wagner said. Baum listened and later published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Five Best: Deborah Levy on Books That Open the Mind  I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at the age of 9, before I saw the film, and am glad that is so. The imaginative reach of L. Frank Baum’s mighty story is still lively in my mind. No Harry Potter, Dorothy hasn’t got a wand—but does have magical silver shoes and the comfort of her beloved dog. “It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.” The idea that the much-feared Wizard of Oz was a whimpering weakling was subversive to me, but not as thrilling as Dorothy being asked to wear green-tinted spectacles so as not to be blinded by the light of the Emerald City. Baum created a glittering literary eclipse and made humble Dorothy the most powerful character in the book.

Oz in the News 7.27.18

THE WIZARD OF OZ AND A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WITCH HAT When L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, the accompanying illustrations by W.W. Denslow included the Wicked Witch of the West wearing a tall conical hat. This followed the trend of Victorian fairy tale imagery depicting witches wearing this kind of garb. Before, witches were just part of a story to scare children, and there was a very real fear among adults of these supernatural beings. In The Witches, Stacy Schiff notes that “Between 1580 and 1680, England, Scotland and Wales dispensed with no fewer than four thousand witches.” What these witches look like does vary, but there is evidence of the conical hat as an accessory as early as 1600 in this illustration of accused English witch Jane Scrimshaw.

Watch Monica Lewinsky Sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ At a Gay Bar Monica Lewinsky celebrated her birthday the best way a person can: surrounded by gays. Lewinsky was at Alan Cumming’s NYC gay bar Club Cumming on her birthday this week and treated the crowd to a special performance. Lewinsky sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz with piano accompaniment. The performance was captured by an audience member and is honestly adorable.

Oz in the News 7.25.18

Reimagined classic ‘Wizard of Oz’ debuts in Kansas City area as theater, ballet Think you’ve seen enough “The Wizard of Oz” productions?Organizers promise you’ve not seen any like these: the first live stage production to incorporate stills and film clips and the debut of a new ballet based on the 1939 American musical fantasy film synonymous with Kansas. “It’s all things Oz in the Kansas City area this year,” said Mark Edelman, whose last project before retiring after 40 years at the helm of Kansas City’s Theater League has been to develop this live stage version that will run for four performances Aug. 1-4 at the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, just west of Kansas City. Edelman has licensed from Warner Brothers the use of up to 40 scenes from the MGM movie that will be projected on a 40-by-20-foot video wall at the rear of the stage. You won’t see Judy Garland on the screen, you’ll see recognizable scenes behind the live actors. Next to the amphitheater, the National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame is presenting daytime programming Aug. 2-4. The center’s “Oz Comes to Kansas” allows visitors to experience a farm town similar to what Dorothy Gale would have experienced while living on her family’s Kansas farm. Pet farm animals, ride a train, take photos with characters from the musical, watch a puppet version of “The Wizard of Oz,” participate in crafts and activities, and see one of the largest private collections of Oz memorabilia. Admission is $8 adults, $4 ages 2-12; food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Oz in the News 7.18.18

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz If you’ve ever seen a production by Synetic Theater, you know the company employs movement, sound, mime, gestures, music, and color much more than it relies on language to reach the audience. Now, Synetic is using L. Frank Baum’s beloved tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as the basis for an innovative production about self-knowledge and honesty. And true to form, much of the story is told by visual or aural implication rather than by speech. Dorothy, the wizards, and the witches speak, but until the end of the play, none of Dorothy’s friends can talk. This Wizard centers around a young man named Oz (Robert Bowen Smith) who fancies himself a wizard. His presence is woven through Tori Bertocci and Ryan Sellers’s adaptation. The play begins with him sitting alone, constructing a flying machine that transforms into a cyclone — presumably the cyclone that sweeps young Dorothy (Emily Whitworth) and her faithful dog Toto (Jacob Yeh) from their home in Kansas to Munchkinland.

Review: Synetic’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz In Oz, words are powerful and are the providence of wizards and witches; most of the Ozian residents do not speak, which is why they hail Dorothy as a powerful witch when her windswept house fells the Wicked Witch of the East. Otherwise, the Wizard, along with the good witches and bad witches speak. And in another poignant development, as the Scarecrow takes to the road with Dorothy, he begins to find his own voice, growing in intelligence even before the Wizard grants his wish for brains. These and other little touches, such as the pit-stop in China-Land, peopled with the stylish and elegant yet fragile men and women made of porcelain, make for a adventure that will surely please fans of the 118-year-old story and newbies alike. And what is a trip to Oz without the role call of witches to add their magical touch? Synetic has Suzy Alden, distinctive as the good Witches of the North and South, and Natalie Cutcher as the Wicked Witch of the West. Both Alden and Cutcher put their own stamp on these famous enchantresses. The ensemble likewise takes on a myriad roles – from Munchkins, China Dolls, Emerald City citizens, flying monkeys and even the cyclone itself – with energetic skill and the usual Synetic brilliance.



Oz in the News 7.15.18

Watch Jackie Burns and Casey Cott Mash Up 2 Wicked Tunes in Latest ‘Out of Oz’ Music Video Burns concludes her acclaimed run as Broadway’s Elphaba July 14 (she will be succeeded by Jessica Vosk beginning July 16 at the Gershwin Theatre). Cott is best known for his work in TV’s Riverdale. The video series launched with Rachel Tucker and Aaron Tveit performing a stripped-down version of “Defying Gravity.” Subsequent editions have featured original stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, Tony winner and former Glinda Annaleigh Ashford, and country star and noted Wicked fan Jennifer Nettles.

Oz in the News 7.14.18

Animated ‘Oz’ Movie in the Works From Warner Bros., ‘Madagascar’ Writer Warner Bros. is developing an animated Wizard of Oz retelling, working with veteran scribe Mark Burton. Burton will adapt Toto, a children’s book by War Horse writer Michael Morpurgo, which tells the story of Dorothy’s trip through Oz from her faithful dog’s perspective.  The movie from Warner Animation Group will be executive produced by Jared Stern and Winsor Yuan through their A Stern Talking To banner. Stern worked with Warner Bros. as a writer on the Lego Batman and Lego Ninjago pics. Burton often works with the U.K.’s Aardman Studios, having written the studio’s last two features — Shaun the Sheep and Early Man. His other writing credits include Gnomeo & Juliet and Madagascar. He is repped by UTA, the U.K.’s Berlin Associates and McKuin Frankel.

Chesterton Oz Fest ‘First Lady’ still greeting fans Reader Carla Sellers of South Bend, who had served as one of the event organizers for the annual Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton before it disbanded in 2012, contacted to me to ask about Mary Ellen St. Aubin, another of the favorite “little people,” who like Maren, would travel to Northwest Indiana each year to greet fans. St. Aubin would traditionally greet her Chesterton fans by saying she was “a Munchkin by marriage,” since she did not appear in the film, but her husband Pernell Elmer St. Aubin was in the movie playing a Munchkin Soldier. Pernell, who died at age 64 in 1987, only attended a few of the first Chesterton festivals, while Mary Ellen continued to attend faithfully almost every year. It’s with a big smile that I report Mary Ellen is still attending Wizard of Oz festivals and events around the country, and on Sept. 21, she will celebrate her 98th birthday.

Movie memorabilia to be on display at fest “This guy, and I don’t want to use his full name, but his first name is Joel. He had a detached barn with a horde of costumes from the golden age of Hollywood. He also has the actual carriage used in ‘Gone With the Wind’ and the old Metro Golden Meyer sign that is seen here,” Kaufman said, pointing to two black and white photos on his table. “It was fascinating.” One of the things that really piqued Kaufman’s attention was a heavy grey uniform-style outfit. While Kaufman didn’t consider himself a classic movie buff, he was pretty sure he knew where that costume came from. “I saw it and asked him ‘is that a Winkie guard uniform?’ And he said it was a prototype of the Winkie uniform from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ he said. “He also had an early prototype of the flying monkeys costume.” The Winkie guards, fans will remember, served the Wicked Witch of the West, donning coats, fur hats and boots (they also chanted the unforgettable, “O-ee-yah, e-oh-ah!”). Kaufman was simply floored. “We walked through it and he showed me some stuff. I told him if he ever wanted to get rid of it … I would like first dibs,” he said. As fate would have it, that day came.

Profiles In History Has a Veritable Museum of Soon To Be Auctioned Movie Memorabilia in Their Comic-Con Booth Profiles in History, a high profile memorabilia auction house, has a booth and they’ve got a treasure trove of items from films like Star Wars, Jaws and The Wizard of Oz on display at the booth, ahead of their next auction.  That’s booth 1605 if you were wondering. You will see iconic items like: Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch of the West” hat from The Wizard of Oz.

Oz in the News 7.13.18

The Steam Engines of Oz Review Right off the bat, the thing that viewers will notice, and be distracted by, is the inconsistent animation. Background buildings and vehicles are often single colored and untextured, this is most prominent in the forest, where I am uncertain if the characters are walking over grassy knolls or moss-laden dirt patches. When a prop or vehicle is a focal point of the scene, the extra layers put into it, such as the grip of the rayguns or the gears of the planes make them look passable. Conversely, the character animation is rather impressive, given the limited means available. A few extras in the background occasionally look stiff, but, for the most part, all the characters move well. The introductory scene to Victoria sees her shimmy, slide, and climb up a massive wall of machinery to repair a cog that has gotten stuck. She moves with ease and interacts with the backgrounds believably. Due to the smooth movements of the animation models, the action is also rather fun. They all run, jump, claw, shoot and climb in a way that suggests they have weight and gravity affects them. During the massive battle sequence, planes airdrop robots, whose are made to intentionally look like Tik-Tok, and they land a satisfying thud. The character designs, especially of the hulking Tin Man, are quite pleasant as well.

Sky Arts to tell Judy Garland’s story UK network Sky Arts has ordered a documentary about the final days of Hollywood star Judy Garland. Passions – Judy Garland by Marc Almond (1×60′) is from UK producer Icon Films and is being presented by British singer and performer Almond. The show will attempt to piece together the poignant last days of Garland, who is considered by some to have possessed the greatest voice of the 20th century.

Oz in the News 7.12.18

“The Wizard of Oz,” the Last Munchkin, and the Little People Left Behind It’s strange that so many journalists dwell on the orgies when a genuine Munchkin scandal has gone virtually unreported for seventy-five years. In the nineteen-seventies, the producer of “Oz,” Mervyn LeRoy, recalled that he wanted to amass a group of “little people who were little and cute and looked perfect.” Consequently, Munchkin headhunters were instructed to weed out achondroplastic dwarfs and dwarfs of color. Nobody involved in the production seems to have questioned the Jim Crow strictures of Munchkinland. It’s as if they all thought, Of course—why on earth would Dorothy dream about black people? One victim of M-G-M’s discriminatory casting policy was the African-American tap dancer Crawford Price. In the only photograph I can find of him, from 1938, Price is pictured alongside five other members of Henry Kramer’s Hollywood Midgets. At twenty-five, he is trim, suspendered, and preternaturally grave, with a perfect Harvey Comics nose. Due to his race, Price was the only performer in the photo not enlisted for “Oz,” despite a dire shortage of trained dancers among the little people. M-G-M wound up hiring amateurs and shunting them to the rear of the soundstage, where nobody could see them bungling the choreography. There’s no way of knowing how Price felt about this, or how he filled his days while Jerry Maren and his ilk were on the Metro lot, bonding and learning their blocking and methodically hunting down Clark Gable. For Margaret Pellegrini, colloquially known as Popcorn, the experience was heaven-sent. Just fifteen when she began filming “Oz,” Pellegrini made garrulous public appearances well into her eighties, usually wearing a flower-pot hat and retailored versions of her original Munchkin duds. (Her motto: “Costumes go over big.”) “Every time I go to the bank,” she once boasted, “someone comes up to me and asks, ‘Were you in ‘The Wizard of Oz’?” Reading that, I immediately thought of Crawford Price. The indignity of being asked that question every week and having to answer “No” can scarcely be imagined.

Homer Glen man collects $1 million of Wizard of Oz memorabilia Judy Garland’s famous line “There’s no place like home,” rings true as can be for Walter Krueger, whose Homer Glen house is covered with one word: Oz. Dorothy, Toto, the Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow can be found almost everywhere you turn as miniature figurines, painted on a tea set, as puppets hanging from the ceiling and even on a peanut butter jar. “Anything that they could find marketable to put the Wizard of Oz title on I have,” said Krueger of his ever-growing collection that currently totals more than 10,000 pieces of memorabilia. The mélange of merchandise includes dolls, a pinball machine, books from across the globe and a few pieces Krueger said are authentic props from the 1939 classic film. They include “an Emerald City guard’s coat,” which he called “very art deco for the time the movie came out,” plus “one of the spears from the movie,” and “an actual piece of the Yellow Brick Road.” The collection fills two rooms plus portions of his basement and still spills into the hallways; there’s also a hidden section behind a bookcase door-Krueger’s homage to the man behind the curtain. Krueger walks through all of the displays in his very own pair of ruby sneakers to match Dorothy’s slippers.

Newman to perform L. Frank Baum: “The Man Behind the Curtain” solo play in Fergus Falls On New Year’s Eve, 1908, “The Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum announced to his audience that his theatrical production had been canceled. Since the writer couldn’t give the audience a show, he gave them the story of how he transformed his fears and failures into the great American fairy tale. Dr. John Newman tells this story in his solo play, “The Man Behind the Curtain.” Newman will perform his solo play “The Man Behind the Curtain” in Fergus Falls, Minnesota on Tuesday, July 31. The performance will take place at the Otter Tail County Historical Society’s (1110 Lincoln Ave. W.) Community Picnic at noon and at PioneerCare (1131 S. Mabelle Ave.) at 3 p.m. Both events are open to the public and admission is free.

Oz in the News 7.11.18

Host Josh Gates examines the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz with conservationist Dawn Wallace, as seen on Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown.

Who stole the ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Watch our exclusive clip as Expedition Unknown’s Josh Gates gets on the case On Discovery series Expedition Unknown, Josh discovers that the robust looking outside security door had its alarm disabled. This allowed the thieves to break the glass and enter the building. The door to the main museum area was left unlocked, again allowing easy access for the robbers. They then simply had to walk to the display and smash the glass to get their hands on the slippers. A CCTV camera directly opposite the slipper display should have caught the thieves on film, but it was switched off!

Oz in the News 7.10.18

Playing the casting game with ‘Wicked’ Assuming that Menzel and Chenoweth don’t get the casting call, then who will? A look through the Web reveals numerous candidates. According to Pretty 52, former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger has emerged as the front-runner to play Elphaba. She does have an excellent voice and acting experience as she was nominated for a Tony for playing Grizabella in “Cats.” We should note she’ll be 41 in 2019. Another website, Just Jared, got into the casting game, conducting a poll in 2017 where the top vote-getter for Elphaba turned out to be Lea Michele of “Glee” fame with 69.7 percent. That she bears a striking resemblance to Menzel I’m sure didn’t sway voters. And she can sing, too. Finishing a distant second was Menzel herself with 10.5 percent. Receiving votes in single-digit percentages were Zendaya, Ariana Grande, Melissa Benoist, Samantha Barks and Sofia Carson. The top vote-getter for Glinda was Dove Cameron of Disney Channel fame with 28.5 percent. Chenoweth finished second with 13.8 percent. Right behind her was Amanda Seyfried with 12.3 percent. Garnering single-digit percentage votes were Anna Kendrick, Beth Behrs, Emmy Rossum and Olivia Holt.

4 things to know about this NC theme park, where ‘The Wizard of Oz’ spirit is alive The summer season is “Journey With Dorothy,” which is essentially a guided tour through the movie’s sights and scenes with a singing actress playing Dorothy as your tour guide down the Yellow Brick Road. September, meanwhile, is “Autumn at Oz.” There are still tours one can take, but visitors have more the run of the grounds.