Wicked musical casts its first black Glinda as Brittney Johnson makes history Brittney Johnson just made history on Broadway. The stage actress became the first black performer to take on the mantle of Glinda in an English-language production of Wicked on Thursday. The ever popular musical, an alternate take on The Wizard of Oz, has been playing in New York for over 15 years. Brittney joined the cast of the perennial hit back in June. She was cast as a member of the ensemble and as Glinda’s understudy. As an understudy, she had to be ready to assume the role whenever necessary, and the opportunity finally came Thursday night. The actress and singer posted another photo of herself in the Glinda costume with a radiant smile on Friday, saying she would be reprising the role later that night. ‘The importance of this moment in history is only amplified by the message of this beautiful show: Love, friendship, and kindness are stronger than any division caused by a fear of ‘otherness,’ she wrote. ‘Love can break down barriers to change the world. I’m so grateful to the Wicked team for trusting me to tell this story. Representation is so important and I’m honored to be a representative here on Broadway and in the theatre community. My hope and prayer is that people all over the world can see my story and have faith that they can achieve their dreams too. ‘I’m going to keep dreaming big and working hard to continue breaking down doors so that Everyone who wants to has a chance to walk through! Let’s do it again tonight! See you at 8!’
Category Archives: Oz Theatre
Ruby Rakos, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Karen Mason, More Are Part of Chasing Rainbows Workshop An industry presentation of Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz, a new musical about the early life of Judy Garland, from her vaudeville sister act through her rise at MGM to win the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, is presented January 10 in New York City. Chasing Rainbows is the first stage, film, or television property about the life of Judy Garland to receive the endorsement of the Garland Estate. The musical utilizes tunes from the Sony Music/Feist Robbins catalog, including “Over the Rainbow,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Everybody Sing,” “In Between,” and “Dear Mr. Gable.” The production was conceived and created by actor, director, and teacher Tina Marie Casamento. Garland historian John Fricke, author of The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Classic, is a consultant on the project.
Elizabeth Letts Finds the Wizard Behind Oz We all need a bit of magic from time to time,” Maud Gage Baum says to the young Judy Garland in Elizabeth Letts’s new novel, Finding Dorothy (Ballantine, Feb.). Maud—the widow of Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum and the indefatigable central character of Letts’s story—is a woman profoundly familiar with both the importance of magic and the endless challenges of creating it. Warm, articulate, and fiercely intelligent, Letts feels as vibrantly present as if she were sitting across the table, though our conversation is being conducted remotely—Letts in her California home, me in North Carolina. Letts’s novel moves fluidly between two phases of Maud Baum’s life: her long relationship with Frank Baum (from their meeting in 1880 through the completion of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1899) and the adaptation of the book into film two decades after Frank’s death. The larger-than-life Baum—a ferociously inventive, optimistic, and talented man who failed in theatrical, publishing, and retailing ventures before Oz became a bestseller in 1900—comes effervescently to life in Letts’s pages, and his creative vision forges the most obvious link between her novel’s two narratives. Yet it’s a chain of female mentorship that forms the most memorable connections in the novel. As the younger Maud raises four sons and keeps her family afloat amid endless financial vicissitudes, she feels a deep bond with Magdalena, her sister Julia Carpenter’s daughter and one possible inspiration for the character of Dorothy. “The Carpenters homesteaded in Dakota Territory, where the Baums also lived for a time. Julia Carpenter’s diary offered me so many small useful details, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to explore the area where they lived myself,” Letts says. “When I visited the library in Aberdeen, where Frank opened a short-lived store, the staff let me sit and look through boxes of Baum family memorabilia spanning decades of their lives. Maud’s lace and stationery, lots of family photographs: it was touching those things, and seeing those places, that really brought the story to life for me.”
Vaquera Is Taking On The Wizard of Oz at MoMA PS1 Since its start seven years ago, Vaquera has mined culture high and low, producing nontraditional fashion shows inspired by, among other things, high school; religious iconography and casinos; status symbols like Tiffany & Co. bags and the American flag; and the Margaret Atwood classic, The Handmaid’s Tale. The trio composed of Patric DiCaprio, Bryn Taubensee, and Claire Sully will continue its brand of “fashion fan fiction” into 2019 with a performance at MoMA PS1 this April consisting of a stage reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz. Titled “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead,” it will riff on L. Frank Baum’s original text, film productions of the book, and the musical Wicked, as well as other modern retellings. Vaquera’s performance is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, promising a cast of artist, model, and actor collaborators. As for the show itself, the trio says, “We will deconstruct what it is about the characters from The Wizard of Oz that have resonated with so many people . . . . You can expect something wild and bizarre.”
‘Wizard of Oz,’ Miyazaki to star in LA Motion Picture museum An immersive “Wizard of Oz” exhibit will greet visitors to the Motion Picture museum in Los Angeles when it opens after a long delay in late 2019, organizers said on Tuesday. A pair of the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the classic 1939 musical, along with costumes, props and exhibits about the behind the scenes making of “The Wizard of Oz”, will be installed in the lobby of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Hundreds of other movie memorabilia on show in the main “Where Dreams Are Made” exhibit will include a pair of doors from Rick’s Cafe from the movie “Casablanca” and the typewriter used to write Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” The 300,000-sq-foot museum, with two movie theaters and sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills, is now expected to open in about a year, museum officials said on Tuesday. The work of Japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki will be the subject of the museum’s first temporary exhibit, followed by one on African-American cinema from 1900 to 1970 that is scheduled for the fall of 2020.
People demand refunds after utterly ‘sloppy’ performance of ‘The Wiz’ Dorothy forgot her lines, the Cowardly Lion looked more like a bear and the magical land of Oz was displayed on a laptop projector. A subpar performance of “The Wiz” put on by a concert promotion agency this past weekend at the Brown Theatre has caused dozens of Louisville customers to call and demand refunds, according to an employee at the Kentucky Center For the Performing Arts. Helen Barnett, who spent $65 for seats, said she was a fan of “The Wiz” because of its all-black cast. “It was terrible,” Barnett said. “Dorothy was wearing a Walmart dress. They forgot their dialogues … at one point Dorothy said she wanted to go back to Texas!” (In “The Wiz,” Dorothy is from Harlem while Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” is from Kansas.) Tasha McGhee, who went to the 7 p.m. show, said the actor playing the Cowardly Lion didn’t have a tail or a mane on his costume. He was missing one of his paws and was wearing one black sock instead. It went downhill from there. McGhee said there were several times the cast and crew set the wrong scene and needed to turn off the lights to reset it. “It was really sloppy,” Tasha McGhee said. “The backdrop was a projected image of a cornfield and a barn. But then laptop notifications kept popping up on screen. They were projecting it off of someone’s computer.”
Matt Murray pens ‘Toto-ly Twistered’ Toronto musical Matt Murray remembers sitting in the audience at the Elgin Theatre as a Sarnia teenager to watch a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. All these years later, he’s a playwright in Toronto where The Wizard of Oz, a Toto-ly Twistered Family Musical, is being brought to life from Nov. 30 to Jan. 5 at the historic Theatre. “My 14 or 15-year-old self is pretty elated to be having the opportunity to write the show that is now on that stage,” Murray said. Technical rehearsals began this week for the second Ross Petty Productions holiday family musical Murray has worked on. This year’s version of Wizard of Oz is set in the present day. “I won’t give too much more away about it, but it’s definitely not your Judy Garland Wizard of Oz,” Murray said. This year’s version of Wizard of Oz is set in the present day. “I won’t give too much more away about it, but it’s definitely not your Judy Garland Wizard of Oz,” Murray said. Showtime and ticket information about Wizard of Oz at the Elgin Theatre can be found online at www.rosspetty.com.
Kermit the Frog on Why It’s Not That Easy Being Green in the Emerald City “The Scarecrow is a tough role if you’re allergic to hay. I sneezed between every take. But once I got a brain, I was able to figure out where to buy hay fever medicine. As for playing the Wizard, that’s an extremely difficult role for a frog. Y’see, Emerald City is green, so I keep blending in with the decor. But don’t worry, we fixed that. I promise to be completely visible when you come see our show.”
Vintage Sundays Review: The Wizard of Oz The Wizard of Oz more than lives up to its iconic reputation, and despite its famously troubled production, which saw no fewer than four different directors, it still manages to deliver a blissful, vivid trip into the magical world of Oz. However, the film is more than just an escapist sugar rush. While Dorothy may conclude that ‘There’s no place like home’ on her return to black and white Kansas, there is an undeniably bitter twinge as she leaves behind the glorious, absurd Oz for Kansas and the nice but dull Aunt Em. This film is often seen as an analogy for growing up, and while Dorothy, and the audience, must eventually face the grown-up world of Kansas, we are still given the rare chance to experience the world of Oz in uncynical, childlike awe. The Wizard of Oz certainly isn’t perfect, it is occasionally stilted, saccharine, and dated, but in spite of these flaws it is still absolutely worth watching, and returning to, just to be swept up in its wide-eyed, joyful sense of wonder.
Marissa Jaret Winokur Channels Good Witch in ‘Wonderful Winter of Oz’ Since her breakout Tony-winning debut on Broadway in “Hairspray” in 2002, Marissa Jaret Winokur has appeared in movies (“Fever Pitch”), TV series (“Retired at 35,” “Melissa & Joey,” “Playing House”), competed on “Dancing With the Stars” and won “Celebrity Big Brother.” Now she’s returning to the musical theater stage as the good witch Glinda in “The Wonderful Winter of Oz,” a Lythgoe Family Panto production opening Dec. 15 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Blending Frank Baum’s story and characters from “The Wizard of Oz” with well-known modern pop songs, the holiday show stars Mackenzie Ziegler (“Dance Moms,” “Dancing With the Stars: Juniors”) as Dorothy and Kermit the Frog as the Wizard. Growing up watching “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Muppet Show” on TV, Winokur didn’t hesitate when she got the offer to participate. “We were all star-struck by Kermit the Frog at the photo shoot. Getting to sing with Kermit is so exciting for me,” she said. And she’s just as thrilled to don her extravagant Glinda gear. “The costumes are amazing. They come from London,” she said. “They’ve spared no expense.”
UW Professors Examine Long Marketing Life of the ‘Oz’ Myth As the three UW professors describe it, the book was born “on a balmy summer night in New York City in 2013.” They were passing the famed Gershwin Theatre late in the evening when a rush of theater patrons came out the front doors, excitedly discussing the stage production of “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz.” They noticed some were wearing tiaras, others dressed in green, and they even spotted a few sporting ruby red slippers. That got them thinking: How has Oz resonated so well through generations, and how many times can different versions of Baum’s original book be told through different platforms? The three professors’ book examines the long life of the Oz myth through the marketing machinery and the consumption patterns that have made its sustainability possible. Drawing on the fields of marketing, literary and cultural studies, and remediation theory, the authors examine key adaptations of Baum’s original publication. “For me, the biggest surprise was Baum himself. He wasn’t the impractical ‘dreamer of Oz’ we see in television movies,” Aronstein says. “Rather, he was an astute and savvy pioneer in the newly professionalized marketing field, and he used his experience to market and brand ‘Oz.’”