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Further Stage Adventures in Oz, Part Fifty: Oz Stage to Stage

Anna Laughlin looks to the past as Danielle Wade looks to the future; both will find Oz.
Anna Laughlin looks to the past as Danielle Wade looks to the future; both will find Oz.
Photo montage by Peter Heimsoth

L.Frank Baum’s Land of Oz has been on the stage (professional and otherwise) in one form or another for one hundred and twelve years. Beginning with the 1902 extravaganza created by Baum himself with Paul Tietjens, going on to adaptations of the MGM movie with music by Harold Arlen and “Yip” Harburg, to Ken Harper and Charlie Smalls’s revolutionary reinvention known as The Wiz, to Thomas W. Olson, Richard Dworsky, and Gary Briggle's The Marvelous Land of Oz, to James P. Doyle and Joe Cascone’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s expansion of the MGM version, and to countless other adaptations (usually of the first story), it is clear that Oz is a hot theatrical commodity.

Many inferior takes on Oz have been produced, some that should never have seen the footlights, and some which have never had the chance to shine. Among the latter is a musical of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, created by a friend of mine.

Your humble History of Oz Examiner has said before how sad it is that more of the Oz canon has not been adapted for the stage. Granted, much of it would have to be altered owing to larger-than life characters, creatures, and situations. Then again, even if the company hasn’t got an unlimited budget, an imaginative audience can frequently fill in the less “stageable” bits.

Perhaps someday someone will create a barrier-breaking stage show based upon Baum’s later books, opening up the realm of Princess Ozma to people who still think the Scarecrow rules the Emerald City. Until that day, there will be much to enjoy as theatrical companies take us “Over the Rainbow” to “Ease on Down,” “Just a Little Further Along the Way."