We can call this part of my tale, The Ones That Got Away.
As you all know by now, I have been a fan of Oz for most of my life, and from at least the age of six, my dream was to play the Cowardly Lion. One year for Halloween, my mother sewed me a costume based on the MGM version of the character (or specifically on the action figure then available from the toy company Mego), complete with fake fur chest, mitts, and mane, and a long tail which I could drape over my arm.
That was as close as I got for many years. I missed two chances to try out for stage versions of Wizard.
My grade school put one on… the year after I graduated. As it happened, my sister played Dorothy in that one, and the boy who played the Scarecrow is now her husband. Years later, they completed the circle by going to a costume party as the Tin Woodman (my brother-in-law with an actual oil drum for the torso) and the Lion. It was a much abridged version of the story incorporating the Arlen – Harburg songs from the MGM movie.
Also, my high school put one on… the year after I graduated. I suspect it may have been the Muny version, because while the MGM tunes were again used, I heard about a scene in which a terrified woman in the Emerald City attacks the Cowardly Lion with a frying pan.
From there, when the opportunity presented itself, I would try out for community theater productions of some version of the tale. Then came the RSC adaptation of the MGM movie, and soon every theater company was doing it. My chance finally came in the late 1990’s…