On its 40th anniversary, a look at how ‘The Wiz’ forever changed black culture Forty years after its original release, no film has uniquely defined black culture and shaped the framework of a musical genre quite like “The Wiz.” An adaptation of the groundbreaking Broadway musical — itself a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 children’s fantasy “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” that became the beloved Judy Garland movie — the Sidney Lumet-directed film had a rapturous soundtrack produced by Quincy Jones, a cast that included Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell, Mabel King and Richard Pryor and an aesthetic firmly rooted in black culture. For a generation of black Americans, this was the first time they saw people who spoke, sung and moved the way they did in a Broadway production and, later, a big-screen musical, and it has become a kind of rite of passage for the black community. Everyone remembers their first time experiencing “The Wiz.” If it’s the stage production, that likely came from performing it in high school or seeing a touring troupe tackle it, but the film is the most accessible entry into the all-black retelling of “The Wizard of Oz.” Many of us recall watching it with family during the holidays, huddled around the TV and singing the tunes.
Category Archives: Oz Music
First Look at Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana Grande, and More in A Very Wicked Halloween Original Wicked stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth reunited to host and perform during NBC’s A Very Wicked Halloween: Celebrating 15 Years on Broadway. The special event will air October 29 (the eve of the musical juggernaut’s anniversary) at 10 PM. Performing alongside the pair of Tony winners will be pop star and Broadway alum Ariana Grande (a noted Wicked superfan), the a cappella group Pentatonix, the current Broadway cast of the musical (led by Jessica Vosk and Amanda Jane Cooper), Adam Lambert, and Ledisi.
Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in a movie anymore: How ‘Oz’ morphs in book, film, ballet Marilyn James of Kansas City missed the movie villain Miss Gulch. “I was a little sad to see she’s not in the book,” she said. “Such a great character in the movie.” Jane Albright, president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, pointed out, “And yet the movie doesn’t resolve her. Miss Gulch is still there at the end and she could still take Toto.” Albright, along with “Oz” book collector Lynn Beltz of Curlew, Wash., attends annual “Oz” events around the country and visits schools that are reading the book. “There are many more obstacles in the book than there are in the movie,” James said. “This made the book seem more like a fairy tale.”
Beyond The Frame: The Wizard of Oz While the difficult production of The Wizard of Oz (1939) would have four directors — including Richard Thorpe, George Cuckor, King Vidor and Victor Fleming (who would be finally credited) — MGM studio cinematographer Harold Rosson, ASC would see the production through from beginning to end, and earn an Academy Award nomination for his sumptuous color photography. The opening and closing credits, as well as the Kansas sequences, were filmed in black-and-white and tinted using a sepia-tone process.
Turner Entertainment opposes use of ‘Wicked Witch’ in trademark Turner Entertainment Company has filed an opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to stop witch and Pagan elder Dorothy Morrison from trademarking her brand name ‘Wicked Witch Mojo.” Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, serves as the copyright holder for a large library of productions made by its sister subsidiary Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (aka, Warner Brothers), that includes The Wizard of Oz (1939). In 2001, Turner successfully trademarked the terms “Wicked Witch” and “Wicked Witch of the West.” In 2008, the company trademarked “Wicked Witch of the East” and expanded that of “Wicked Witch”. Then, in 2014, it trademarked “Wicked Wiches” [sic] It is for this reason that Turner has decided to file an opposition notice in response to Morrison’s own attempt to trademark her business name.
The Kansas City Ballet’s ‘Oz’ Takes Musical Cues From Jazz, Disco, Glam Rock, Country Fiddling… The newest production, “The Wizard of Oz” by choreographer Septime Webre, receives its world premiere on Friday with the Kansas City Ballet. “We kind of found inspiration in unexpected corners,” Webre says, drawing from brash jazz, grooving disco, glam rock guitar, country fiddling, Middle Eastern timbres, and new wave. Matthew Pierce wrote the music, performed by the Kansas City Symphony. This is Webre and Pierce’s fifth project together, which includes “Alice (In Wonderland),” performed by Kansas City Ballet in 2014. Pierce sends recordings to Webre and they begin a volley of edits and suggestions, until the ballet is mapped out musically. “It takes about six to eight months to build the score. And that’s well before a single step is danced,” says Webre. “Once the score is done, then I create the dance.”
The Wizard Behind the Curtain Robert O’Hara brings female-themed production of ‘The Wiz’ to TUTS Openly gay thespian Robert O’Hara promises a “contemporary” feel for this month’s production of The Wiz at Theatre Under The Stars, sparked by the casting of several women who will play male characters in this 1975 musical based on The Wizard of Oz. The Cowardly Lion, for example, is played by a female “because the female lion is the hunter and the gatherer,” O’Hara explains. “For a lioness to have no courage, it takes your imagination to a different place.” That place is today, he says. “Our Dorothy lives right now. She is a teenage girl in the age of Beyoncé, Trump, and the Internet, where social media tells you everything that’s wrong with you.” The Wizard, too, is a female in O’Hara’s mounting, which runs October 23–November 4 at the Hobby Center. “Since the actor playing the Wizard is usually double-cast as Uncle Henry, I’m calling her Aunt Henrietta,” he says. “That means that Dorothy will be raised by two women. We’re not saying they are two lesbians. We call them her two aunts. We just let the audience take it on face value.”
THE 5 SCARIEST SCENES IN RETURN TO OZ Return to Oz isn’t a light family romp; it’s a downright horror movie. It even takes place on Halloween! It’s hard to top the sequence in Mombi’s castle. Earlier in the film, we learn that Mombi lives in a grand palace with halls full of beautiful, decapitated female heads. The witch captures Dorothy and her friends, who learn that Mombi possesses a magical powder capable of reviving once-living things. At night, Dorothy sneaks into Mombi’s closet to steal the powder so she can escape on her moose plane, but the headless witch awakens, along with her hall of heads, who scream after her. To this day, I consider this one of the scariest scenes ever put to film. It’s not just the stuff of children’s horror, but the sort of thing that leaves a permanent scar.
Somewhere Over the Go-Go One evening about four years ago, Lovail Long and his bunkmate, Salahuddin Mahdi, were working to develop a writing project about their hometown when the 1978 film The Wizcame on TV. “A light bulb came off, and within an hour, we started putting things together,” says Long. And that is how the new musical The Giz, a go-go adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, came to be. Excited by the possibilities, Long recalls, he called his old friend, Backyard Band leader Anwan “Big G” Glover, and with Big G’s encouragement, Long and Mahdi decided to move forward with the venture. The Giz will be performed on August 19 at the MGM National Harbor; Long plans to take it on the road and eventually mount a longer local run. Its ruby red slippers planted firmly in the DMV, The Giz celebrates go-go culture with a cast that features several of the music’s luminaries, including EU’s Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott as The Giz, a role originally written for Chuck Brown. Despite its title, The Giz was inspired more by Victor Fleming’s 1939 The Wizard of Ozfilm than by any productions of The Wiz. The new musical relates the adventure of 18-year-old Dottie, who lives in North Carolina with her maternal grandparents and yearns to attend Howard University. Dottie, who just might be Chuck Brown’s daughter, is taking out the trash when a well-timed storm whisks her away to Munchkin Land, right by the D.C. border of Prince George’s County.
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.
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.
Woodstock Chimes goes ‘Over the Rainbow’ Musically tuned windchime manufacturer Woodstock Chimes’ latest creation takes inspiration from “The Wizard of Oz.” Its latest chime is tuned to the opening notes of one of the most iconic songs of the 20th century, the Academy Award-winning ballad “Over the Rainbow” from the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg, the ballad Judy Garland popularized reminds us that “somewhere over the rainbow … dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” The Over the Rainbow Chime’s removable windcatcher has a rainbow image to exemplify the song. The chime is also one of the first Woodstock Chimes with a second hangtag designed to call attention to the significance of the tuning, so shoppers can understand at a glance what differentiates the chime from others. Measuring 27 inches in overall length, the Over the Rainbow Chime features seven silver aluminum tubes and cherry finish ash wood. Listen to and order a set here.
The 2018 Wizard Of Oz Festival Opens With A Variety Of Events This year, the 2018 Wizard of Oz Festival will host an exciting variety of programs. From Thursday, June 14 through Sunday, June 17, there will be live performances, lectures, movies, dinners and a free Land of Oz event for children. For more information,
call the Judy Garland Museum at 218-327-9276;
or visit their website: http://www.judygarlandmuseum.com; or https://www.facebook.com/judygarlandmuseum/