Book by William F. Brown
Music & Lyrics by Charlie Smalls
adapted from the novel, The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

INFO:

Opened at the Majestic Theatre    January 5, 1975    1,672 performances
Original Director: Geoffrey Holder
Original Choreographer: George Faison
Original Producer: Ken Harper
Original Leads: Dorothy: Stephanie Mills   Scarecrow: Hinton Battles   Tinman: Tiger Haynes   Lion: Tes Ross   Wizard: Andre DeSheilds   Evillene: Mabel King   Glinda: Dee Dee Bridgewater
Cast Size: Male: 5   Female: 4   Ensemble: 16 or more and 1 dog…   Total Cast Size: 25 or more, 1 dog  (Can be done with about 20)
Orchestra: 19
Published Script: Samuel French
Production Rights: Samuel French
Recordings: The original Broadway produced many hits, and is fine.
Film: Starring Diana Ross (about 20 years too old for the part), Michael Jackson (in the worst work of his fabled career), Lena Horne, directed by Sidney Lumet – not very good, I’m afraid.
Awards: Nominated for 8 Tony Awards, won7, including Best Musical, Score, Featured Actor (Ross), Featured Actress (Bridgewater), Director (Holder), Choreography (Faison)

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

When first performed, the casting for The Wiz was all Black. Sine then, it has been revived with a multi-racial cast, and seemed to work well. It’s a large show, but the acting roles are one-dimensional over all, so it’s mostly about singing and dance. I have some thoughts for marketing, which I’ll cover at the end. This show could work for colleges, universities, some large Dinner Theaters, Regional theaters, large pro companies and Broadway Producers.

Be Warned:

There’s some sexual play implied (minimal), drugs and drink more than implied. Will your audience and cast be okay with that stuff? (It can be minimized, almost eliminated.)

This is a fun piece of pure theater, but only for a company large enough to do it well.

If you haven’t a strong Dorothy and Cowardly Lion, do another show.  Of you haven’t a strong Director and design team, and a very good Choreographer, do another show.

THE STORY: (Really? You don’t know the story? So, about that rock you’re living under…)

ACT ONE: A little farm house in Kansas. Aunt Em hangs laundry on a clothesline. The sky is dark and dangerous. Toto runs across the stage, followed by Dorothy, in her mid-teens. Em asks Dorothy to help, the storm is coming, but Dorothy chases Toto instead. Em angrily points out that Dorothy never thinks, doesn’t help. Dorothy rejoins that it would be a relief to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if the storm blew Dorothy away. Em reminds Dorothy that she’s loved, she’s family. (“The Feeling We Once Had”)

Henry hurries out, shouting about the storm, and they struggle into the cellar. The “Tornado Ballet” arrives. The house vanishes in the wind with Dorothy and Toto inside.

Lights rise on the land of the Munchkins. The porch of the house is visible. Dorothy steps out to be greeted by Munchkins. But her house has been dropped by the tornado atop the Wicked With of the East. Dorothy is horrified, she didn’t mean to kill anyone. They’re interrupted by The Good Witch of the North, Addaperle. She does magic tricks and has a stage act. The Good Witch experiences a very brief and none-too-heartfelt moment of grief over her dead, evil sister. That means there are only 3 wirtches left in oz, Addaperle, Glinda, the good witch of the South, and the Wizard of Oz…and Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s “a real downer”. Addaperle whips out her magic slate, p[art of her stage act, to guess Dorothy’s name, and it’s wrong numerous times. Dorothy finally just writes her name down, and then Addaperle “guesses” the name. (She’s doing the best she can.) Dorothy asks if Addaperle can help her get back to Kansas. Addaperle says only one person can do that, and “He’s The Wiz”.

Addaperle give Dorothy the dead witch’s silver slippers, and tells her not to ever take them off until she gets home. They have some secret powers. Addaperle kisses Dorothy’s forehead in way of protective blessing. Addaperle vanishes in a puff of bus smoke, and Dorothy must travel to Oz down the Yellow Brick Road. The Munchkins warn her about everything, including the Wicked witch, and then wish her a nice trip. Alone, Dorothy wonders what she’s ion for, filled with fear, and dreams of what it will be like “Soon As I Get Home”, but the sense is she doesn’t believe she’ll make it.

A cornfield, and Dorothy meets the famed talking scarecrow, who lets her know that “I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday”. He decides to accompany Dorothy to Oz, to see if the Wizard will give him some brains. (He’s got straw.) Together, they “Ease On Down The Road.” They encounter…yes…a talking Tin Woodsman. The Tinman is rusted stiff, Dorothy oils him, and he’s animated again. (“Slide Some Oil To Me” The Tinman is, well, cool.) He used to be a real man, but the Wicked Witch put a spell on his ax, and it cut him to pieces, limb by limb. A Tinsmith replaced each piece, and here he is. Except he has no heart. He decides to join them, to askl the Wizard for a heart, and the three of them “Ease On Down The Road” (reprise). But they’re stopped by a “Mean Ole Lion”! (Who talks, pretty loud.) He brags about how fierce he is, threatens them. But when Dorothy swats the beast, they discover he’s a scaredy-cat. Dorothy invites him to join them and ask the Wiz for courage, and off the four of them “Ease On Down The Road” reprise.

A funky part of the forest, and they’re lost, surrounded by scary noises. Strangers dressed in huge hoop skirts and carrying wind chime-like rattles cross through. More follow, ignoring our four heroes. They’re all different and strange. The Lion is afraid this is the part of the forest where the Kalidah’s live. And they enter led by their queen, evil long-nosed creatures bent on destroying Dorothy and friends. (“Kalidah Battle”) They grab Dorothy, she’s saved by the Tinman, the Lion accidentally finds himself in one-to-one battle with their queen until the friends scare off their foes.

A poppy field, moments later. Dorothy compliments the Scarecrow and Tinman for rescuing her. The Lion’s offended. But Dorothy knows that the Lion was scared, and yet he saved her repeatedly. The others make fun of the Lion, but Dorothy tells him that someday he won’t be afraid, he will “Be A Lion”. They approach the Emerald City. But the Poppies (who are nubile, seductive women and who are mobile, thank you) surround the friends, and the Lion hallucinates. (“Lion’s Dream”) Field Mice show up with a paddy wagon and the Poppies run off, having been arrested before. The Mice Squad ask the Lion where he got those Poppies. The Lion is tripping, and is arrested.

Outside the Emerald City, Tinman, Dorothy and the Scarecrow enter, and approach the gate. They must find the Lion, and the Wizard. Then the Lion enters, prodded by the Mice Squad. The Lion is still high, but the Mice turn him over to Dorothy with her promise he won’t dally with Poppies again. The Royal Gatekeeper asks them to take their carrying-on to another city. Dorothy tells the man that they’ve come to see the Wizard, and he haughtily informs them that the Wizard sees nobody. Of course, he accepts bribes. Tinman offers to break his knees as a bribe. The man gives up, giving them green glasses they must wear inside Oz.

They enter. (“Emerald City Ballet”) Dorothy asks people how they can find the Wizard. Everyone laughs at the question. The Wiz, they tell her, is too terrible to behold. Then they see Dorothy’s silver slippers, and wonder at who could take them off the Wicked Witch of the East. They point her to the Wizard”s palace and scram.

The Wiz’s throne room. Before Dorothy and the other’s terrified eyes, two doors slide away revealing a giant mask, which moves aside to reveal a giant iris, which is lost in a mountain of smoke, and The Wiz reveals himself. He strikes a pose, and asks sarcastically “So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard”. He sets off fire pots and generally terrifies the Lion and the others. He demands to know who they are, and Dorothy introduces them. They each tell him quickly what they want. He points out he does not need to help them, he does what he wants. Then, the Wiz sees the slippers. He offers to trade for them, offering Dorothy an Emerald ring, but Dorothy remembers her promise to wear the slippers until she gets home. The wiz cozies up to Dorothy and wonders why anyone would want to go to Kansas. She replies that it’s home.

Wiz encounters the Lion, and laughs when he finds the King of the Jungle is a coward. He discovers the scarecrow hasn’t the brains to be afraid of anything, except fire. And the Tinman wants a heart. The Wiz wonders at him. Why would anyone want a thing that provides pain? But the Tinman fantasizes what it would be like “To Be Able To Feel”. The Wiz decides to grant their requests…IF they kill the Wicked Witch of the West, Evillene. Dorothy protests that killing the other witch was a mistake. He points out she’s the best Wicked Witch killer in the country, and if they want their wishes to come true, they’ll do s he demands. The Wiz vanishes in an explosion of smoke, returning to whence he came, Lion faints.

ACT TWO: In the dreadful castle of the Witch of the West, Evillene, a few days later. Her lackeys dance about, but she tells them all to shut up – ’cause she’s evil with everyone today, son don’t nobody bring her “No Bad News”. Her Winkies (underlings) flee, leaving the Lord High Underling. She demands news of Dorothy (it’s coming), and makes the man kiss her feet. (“It’s so good o be a liberated woman.”) The messenger arrives, and he knows the news isn’t what she wants. Dorothy and friends are still on the road toward Evillene. They couldn’t get the slippers away. And he’s got to go. The man is terrified. She has him hanged and calls for the Winged Monkey, which terrifies everyone. He enters, with a karate scream, and is the hit man for all that is evil. He came because she chanted, he doesn’t care about Evillene, either. She sends the Monkey and his hoard to bring Dorothy and friends to her. (“Funky Monkeys”, the dance as they capture Dorothy.)

Evillene’s castle a week later. Winkys enter carrying huge sacks of unknown substances. The Lord High Underling whips the Lion. Dorothy is dressed as a domestic, carrying water out of the palace…the witch is terrified of water. Evillene enters and is going to put them back to work, when she has a sudden “change of heart.” She sweetly asks again for the slippers. Dorothy refuses, and the Lion repeatedly insults the witch. Evillene threatens the Lion, and to protect him, Dorothy throws water on the witch, who of course, melts. Set free, the Winkies declare a “Brand New Day” (also called “Everybody Rejoice”).

In front of the Emerald City, later. The Royal Gatekeeper has been given his orders, and couldn’t be more pleased. He’s been told by the Wiz that Dorothy and friends destroyed the witch, and that they are never to be allowed into the city. Then he thinks about what they’ve done, and knows fear. Dorothy and friends arrive at the gate. The Gatekeeper tries to keep them out. The Scarecrow thinks, and make up a lie about having a bag of money from the witch’s palace, which they’ll just leave outside the gate and go. Of course the Gatekeeper opens the gate, and they grab him. The gatekeeper scrambles away.

The throne room of the Wiz. The reverberating voice of the Wiz orders them to leave, as he’s busy. But the Scarecrow is suspicious, moves a crank, and the Wiz is revealed in his bedroom, a common man they don’t recognize at first. The Lion realizes who it is and calls him a fake. The friends demand “Who Do You Think You Are”, pretending to be all that. He admits he’s from Omaha, Nebraska, a former used car salesman, a pitchman at a carnival. Then he hired a hot air balloon to make money at a county fair, and a violent wind lifted him and it to Oz. It was seen by the local yokels as a miracle, and he was proclaimed Wizard of Oz. And he did a miracle for them – the green glasses. The Lion points out that green glasses are hardly a miracle. The Wiz says that the miracle is that you allow your eyes to see through them. (“If You Believe”) They can have anything they believe in.

The friends insist the Wiz keep his promise. He locates a box of “All-Bran”, calls it “All-Brain,” and gives it to the Scarecrow, pouring it on him like glitter. He has a brain. Tinman wants his heart. The Wiz locates a red satin sash with a heart on it, the word “love” across the front. The Tinman is thrilled with it. It apparently lights up, and the Wiz includes the batteries for free. As for the Lion, an Emerald City Courage Potion is in order. It’s whiskey and water. Fearfully the Lion drinks it down. As the Lion drinks, the Wiz intentionally steps hard on his tail. The Lion roars, and the Wiz quickly, “innocently” moves away. The lion is going to slug the man, and sees the Wiz is “afraid” of him. He’s found his courage.

It’s Dorothy’s turn, but the Wiz has no answer in his box. The Scarecrow gets the bright idea – doesn’t the Wiz still have that balloon? But the Wiz does not want to leave behind all the power, prestige and money – what Dorothy points out is an empty room where nobody comes to see him, and he’s afraid to go out unless people see what he really is. She promises he will have friends, and she’ll give him the silver slippers when they arrive in Kansas. He agrees.

The balloon, in the midst of Emerald City. The Wiz does a grand farewell speech to the mob of Ozians. (“Y’All Got It”) Dorothy is late, however, and the balloon launches accidentally without her and vanishes. She’s convinced she’ll never get home, when Addaperle appears in a puff of bus smoke. She reminds Dorothy of Glinda, her sister, and waves her magic hanky – to her surprise it works, and Glinda appears. (“A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind”) She knows all about Dorothy. Glinda lets Dorothy know that the slippers can take her home, if she knows the secret. Glinda frowns at her sister and asks why she didn’t tell Dorothy the secret straight off. Addaperle points out that if she had, all the actors on stage would be out of work. Hers was a wise choice.

The secret, Glinda sings to Dorothy, is to “Believe In Yourself”. Dorothy focuses her thoughts on “Home”, Oz fades as she does, and she’s suddenly home with her dog waiting for her.

THE SONGS:

“The Feeling We Once Had”, “Tornado Ballet”, “He’s The Wiz”, “Soon As I Get Home”, “I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday”, “Ease On Down The Road”, “Slide Some Oil To Me”, “Mean Ole Lion””Kalidah Battle”,“Be A Lion”, “Lion’s Dream”, “Emerald City Ballet”, “So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard”, “To Be Able To Feel”, “No Bad News”, “Funky Monkeys”, “Everybody Rejoice”, “Who Do You Think You Are”, “Believe In Yourself”, “Y’all Got It”, “A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind”, “Home”

Hits include “Ease On Down The Road”, “Be A Lion”, “Everybody Rejoice”, “Believe In Yourself”, “Home” (And I love “So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard”, and “No Bad News”. A superior score.)

MY OPINIONS:
You may skip or ignore my comments and rating, as always.  If you do and the results are less than magical, well, don’t nobody bring me no bad news!

I’ve sometimes wondered why the man who wrote the absolutely terrific score for The Wiz, Charlie Smalls, didn’t write other shows. Turns out he was a young man and was writing a second show, when he passed away from complications from a burst appendix. What a loss! Look at how smart, how lovely and vital this score is! Like the loss of George Gershwin at an early age, and Jonathan Larson, who dies opening night of Rent, the loss is incalculable. Smalls’ ideas for songs were strong, his music beautiful, evocative, and filled with life. His lyrics wee not as strong as his music, he missed on a lot of rhymes, that sort of thing, but they are clever and more in the pop area than theater. He was a genuine talent.

And terrific the score is. It’s not usual to start a play with a ballad, but as is true of so many songs in the show, “The Feeling We Once Had” is beautiful and fresh. All the songs I listed under hits are great, a new look at the Wizard of Oz story so entrenched in our minds and hearts thanks to the film and score by Arlen and Harburg. This score is different, of course, very. But I think it compares favorably in many ways.

The script is not always as clever as it might be, but it has many fun lines, in jokes about this being a play after all, and show-biz, that sort of thing. I enjoy the book, but I don’t think it’s masterful in any way. It works, just. And I like how Toto remains in Kansas, and only has a single cross of the satghe at the start, and walks to Dorothy once at the end.

I have some thoughts as to how to reduce the cast size and magnitude of the production, which is large. The biggest ideas include some doubling up of leads. I think Addaperle and Evillene could be one actress, which would make that a titanic role, worthy of a star. They’re sisters, after all. The Wiz can be the Gatekeeper, of course. Aunt Em could easily be Glinda, which would be a nice bookend for the show. In each case, make-up and costuming would seriously differentiate the characters. Uncle Henry, who we see only for a moment, could be the Scarecrow. This approach drops your cast size to 3 female leads, and 4 males, plus Ensemble, for a cast of around 20.

The orchestration could probably be vastly reduced with synths today, to about 7 or so. Perhaps piano/keyboard, drums, bass, guitar, two more keyboards, trumpet. I have a few ideas for sets to get them in line and drop the budget, as well. The show can be made affordable to present.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

 

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

The music is all Motown-type R&B, and goes from beautiful, soaring ballads requiring terrific vocal execution, to aggressive upbeats, no less challenging. A difficult show to sing, for almost all the leads. You need real voices.

Your Musical Director must be comfortable with Motown R&B. He must know how to work well with a young, gifted singer in Dorothy. This is no job for a newbie. Rehearsals will be exhausting, it’s not an easy score to play and requires energy.

Dorothy – Soprano with a great belt, soaring instrument, emotional and gorgeous.

Scarecrow – Tenor with good feel for the blues, nice mid-range.

Tin Man – Lyric baritone with a character-driven voice, smooth, fun.

Lion – Baritone with a huge belt, strong high notes, a real singer with power.

The Wiz – Tenor with a strong mid-range, distinctive vocal quality capable of piercing power.

Evillene – Alto with a huge belt, very comfortable with Gospel, very funny while singing fantastically well.

Glinda – Alto with a beautiful R&B voice, expressive and convincing.

Addaperle – Mezzo with a good belt.

Aunt Em – Mezzo with strong mid-range, some good high notes.

Uncle Henry – Non-Singing (unless he doubles)

Ensemble – All must sing well, have clear mid-ranges, harmonize well.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

This is very much a dance show. The style of movement must be edgy, contemporary, inventive, somewhat wild and unexpected. The land of Oz is magical, and this should express itself largely through movement. It is also frightening, and dangerous. Using any modern form of dance available to you, make the show kinetic, mystical, theatrical and fun. This show requires a very experienced Choreographer who knows how to make a lot of dance happen while not losing the focus of each number. Requires an experienced Choreographer, one who understands theater and story-telling as well as modern forms of dance, and who gets when to stay out of the way of a singer.

A Choreographer for this show is likely to have a hand in staging “Tornado Ballet”, “He’s The Wiz”, “I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday”, “Ease On Down The Road”, “Slide Some Oil To Me”, “Kalidah Battle”, “Lion’s Dream”, “Emerald City Ballet”, “So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard”, “No Bad News”, “Funky Monkey”, “Everybody Rejoice”, “Who Do You Think You Are”, and “Y’all Got It”

Don’t be too flummoxed by that “B” word, ballet. Here, it only means that story elements are being communicated purely through dance, not “classical” dance. The style, the “genre” of dance used should be consistently modern, as modern and “pop” as you can get it.

“Tornado Ballet” is the company, all must sing and dance. It is a mad, furious swirl of bodies that lifts Dorothy and the porch of the house and carries them away. (This effect should be aided with perhaps hydraulics, a fly-away set, multi-media. Work closely with the Set Designer and Director.) Ity should be primal, furious, beyond control in its feel, loud and frightening. No attempt at realism needs to be made. The dancers are the tornado. If you can connect the dancers with some sort of dark, gossamer material that seems to flow from body to body, that would be interesting. But the total effect is of a massive, ravening animal consuming all in its path, and you might want to use sound effects as a part of your design. The number acts like a wipe in a film, cleaning the picture and replacing it with another, if possible. That way there’s no down time. Lift away the Kansas set and behind the whirlwind of dancers, reveal the Munchkin set. This number is all about kinetics, about action.

“He’s The Wiz” is all Addaperle and her Munchkin friend, and communicates an important plot point. Unfortunately, it’s a fair-length number covering a plot point we get in the first verse. It builds up the Wiz, his power, that he’s Dorothy’s one hope to get home. If an image that will later connect up to the Wiz himself can somehow hover over this number, good. It’s a plot point. Not the strongest number in the show. You could use the fact that Addaperle’s powers are marginal at best and as she builds up the Wiz and his power, she tries some of his “tricks” or spells, and fails with pale puffs of smoke. This will pay off later in the show when she actually summons Glinda. It would provide a comic focus for the number amplifying what already exists in the script.

“I Was Born…” is a solo for the Scarecrow, as he pumps himself up, ever the optimist. He’s good-hearted and bright, though he is unaware that he is bright. The backup vocals could be sung by crows (women dressed in black) who really get into it, and feel his spirit. At the end, he can realize it’s the crows doing backup and shoo them away. Keep it soulful, fun.

“Ease On Down The Road” needs movement that can build with each reprise to include increasing numbers of people. It’s a duet the first time, next a trio, then a quartet. The movement has to be able to add the extra bodies and remain coherent. And it should be R&B, a traveling song, with a sense of forward motion. Even if they walk in place, they must feel as if they’re getting somewhere. You could coordinate with your Set Designer and Director, and perhaps have a multi-media backdrop which “passes” by as they “walk.” And the number is positive, affirmative.

“Slide Some Oil To Me” is a solo for the Tinman. He grows looser and looser as he’s oiled up, and that should be staged. (In “The Wizard of Oz” film, the Scarecrow is the dancer. Here, it’s Tinman.) he grows increasingly cool, almost laid back, too cool for the room.

“Kalidah Battle” is another case of dance expressing story. It’s a battle of a bizarre and frightening, nearly supernaturally off people against our heroes, who should barely survive it. Again, keep the movement modern, but do tell the story clearly. No “fisticuffs”, it’s a dance-ff in modern terms, but violent.

“Lion’s Dream” is a physicalization of the fact that he’s high, being seduced by sexy women who are “flowers”. You can dress them, to represent “flowers”, while still showing off the women, and you should. And they’ll need to be able to dance around the Lion, seducing him. While it’s true that “sex sells”, this is essentially a family show!

“Emerald City Ballet” shows the people of the City, all in green and wearing green glasses. It’s a parade of green, stately, majestic in its feel, awesome.

“So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard” should , again, have choreography mixed in carefully with effects created by the Set Designer or a specialist. Flash pots, smoke, projections. Perhaps the Wiz could disappear in one place (a double), appear in another a moment later. He is pulling out all the stops to terrify and control Dorothy and friends. It’s all him, but he should move well;, a lot, be threatening and awesome. This number should be charged with clever staging and energy, it ends the act. Go out with a literal bang.

“No Bad News” is comic gospel, the Wicked Witch and her minions celebrating their vile, violent selves, while all remain in fear of Evillene. The fear of her should be kept central to the movement. There is no joy in witchville. All are suppressed, held down, and will be happy to be free later. The Witch is what the number is all about, and she, unlike Addaperle, is powerful and frightening.

“Funky Monkey” is a dancey-quasi-Kung Fu thing for a soloist who must appear frightening, powerful, and violent. The dance aspect of it is important, it needs to be choreographed.

“Everybody Rejoice” is a big R&B/Gospel celebration. It is open, hands to the sky. It’s thankful, with a new sense of accomplishment for Dorothy and friends, and freedom for everyone else. Hands will be clapped in rhythm.

“Who Do You Think You Are” is our heroes berating the lying Wiz. It is character and plot driven rather than movement oriented, but they do surround the man and offer no escape. This might be done by the Director. After everything Dorothy and friends have gone through, they would be very angry.

“Y’All Got It” is the Wiz’s farewell to his people. It’s a full-stage, almost full-company celebration as he quickly, nervously says almost nothing and tries to get the h**l out of there. He whips up his people into a frenzy of support and awe. It’s the last big number, make the most of it.

Your ensemble will need to really dance.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Dorothy – Mid teens-early 20s (at most). A typical teenager at first look, living in the great American Midwest. She is not “urban”, as the denizens of Oz will all be (except her three friends). She is a product of a rural upbringing. She is sweet-natured but self-involved at the start, though this does change as she does some growing up. Good-hearted, inclusive. Cast for voice, type, acting, movement. Must do everything well.

Lion – Around the same age as his fellow fantasy characters. A large man, powerful, stocky, agile. A force of nature, able to play terror and able to bluff, if badly. The most “hip” of the characters. Not averse to getting high or drunk. Cast for type, voice, acting, movement. Must be good at everything.

Scarecrow – 20s-30s. Smart (though he does not know it), clever, quick to adjust. Unselfish, a problem solver. Cast for dance, voice, type, acting, must be good at everything.

Tin Man – Same age as the Scarecrow, roughly. Must dance and be very loose when he does. Emotional, loving. Cast for movement/dance, voice, type, acting.

The Wiz – 30s-40s or so. A showman who knows how to wow and awe the customers. In fact a scared little man in way over his head. Cast for voice, movement, acting, type, must be good at everything.

Evillene – 30s-50s. Large, powerful, full-throated, with emotions that go through lightning quick and unpredictable changes. Vast energy, a huge belt, moves well. Good comic timing. Cast for type, voice, acting, movement. Must do all well.

Addaperle – 30s-50s. A witch with power that has degraded, and which she can rarely summon. Fun-loving, easily accepting of strangers like Dorothy. Street wise. Cast for voice, acting, type, some movement.

Glinda – Ageless, but in her 20s-40s. Firm but loving, powerful as Evillene but contained. A sense of power about her, charismatic. Beautiful, the most lovely of the witches, easily. Cast for voice, type, acting.

Aunt Em – Late 30s-50s. Dorothy’s Aunt. (Her parents are presumably dead.) She loves Dorothy, but they often do not speak the same language. A good person, with a common nobility. Cast for voice, type, acting.

Uncle Henry – Aunt Em’s age or so, a cameo, very brief.

Ensemble – All must dance very well, sing well, be willing to play silly fantasy roles and be creative in their approach to those roles.

SETS:

This could be a set-crazy show. It runs like this; Act I – Kansas, Munchkin Land, Oz Countryside, Woods, Jungle, Poppy Fields, Emerald City, Throne Room. Act II – Witch’s castle, Forest, Witch’s castle, Throne Room, Fairgrounds.

I think this show will work multi-media. The back of the stage could be a vast screen or set of screens, or perhaps a cyclorama that can be projected onto. This approach will limit construction and cost, and be modern and interesting.

For Kansas, we need to see the porch of the house, and in the distance, corn, rows of it.

The tornado, turn the screens black but with a sense of motion, or show scenes of actual and violent tornadoes. The house stays where it is, with two witch’s legs sticking out, for the Munchkinland scene. (Or you could place the house on the opposite side of the stage, a false front lowered from the rafters.)

Muchkinland. A completely fantasy environment, with the yellow brick road perhaps visible in the distance, winding up into background hills. Fantasy houses, gardens, flowers, birds and the like projected on the back, with a few houses with attached flowers and such wheeled or lowered in.

Oz Countryside, Oz corn stalks (just a few), and a projected cornfield, perhaps with blue corn or something fantastic. Roll on the corn, roll it off.

Woods, Forest, and Jungle implies ever growing numbers of trees of increasing thickness, decreasing light. This can be handled in the background, and start with a tree or two (flats, lowered from the rafters or rolled on), adding trees with each transition.

Poppy Fields, clear out the trees to reveal a bare stage, with a vast poppy field on the screens.

Emerald City. Show the gate as a three-dimensional cut away, a drop lowered from the rafters or rolled on. The city is a collage of green shapes, indistinct but large images jutting skywards with some Gothic sensibility, in the background. No details.

The Throne Room needs special effects which can be married to the background screens, but must also be three-dimensional so the Wizard can enter and exit. It should all be emerald green. It should much of it be angular, high, imposing and meant to be so. Gothic, surreal. Coordinate with the Director, as this may be your toughest build.

The Witch’s castle can almost all be projected.. Perhaps a few arched stone doorways lowered from the rafters, with torches on them. Make it dark, grim, frightening. The place is a mess. Dorothy has her hands full cleaning it.

The forest, as described above. Move the trees toward the front of the stage, leave the Witch’s castle where it is so she can watch. Perhaps FILM this segment and let her watch on the big screens at the back, as if by magic, changing the channel to Oprah when she gets bored…

The Emerald gate has been described, as has the throne room. These will need to slide in, the gate in front of the Witch’s castle so it can be pulled, the throne room always toward the back of the stage.

Remove the throne room for the fairgrounds, and put the Emerald City up again. The Balloon is on wires and must fly away, of course. Once it lifts and is above the sight line of the stage, show its animated progress on the screens, in the skies above the city.

The balloon will perhaps be the single hardest set piece. It can be a false front strung to a baton that can be raised with a small “cage” for the Wiz to stand in, inside the faux basket. It must be safe for the Wizard. It is the kind of balloons used in fair shows since the Depression, in Mid America. The bigger the better.

At the end, restore the initial Kansas set, the cornfields in the distance, on an empty stage, spotlighting Dorothy.

No job for a novice! Start early, you’ll be building pieces. You’ll need a good grid to work with.

The other approach would be to play it all on a bare stage, perhaps with a cyc you can change colors and moods on, and then have actors roll on pieces as needed. (You can do that, anyway.) Low tech, but requiring large wings and staging that will keep things moving. And the throne room may be a problem. It may need to be something that is rolled on as a unit from one side of the stage.

COSTUMES:

In Kansas, dull, workaday. But Oz is another story. Wild colors, of no discernible background or ethnicity. And Munchkins (perhaps wearing cloths many sizes too large for then in a lame attempt to make them appear smaller…) should not look like Kalidahs (described in the script, very odd and surreal), which should not look like the green-clad Ozians, which should not look like the darkly, dankly dressed minions of the witch.

The Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion are specialized costumes. Scarecrow is easy to build, but Lion and Tinman can almost assuredly be rented at any costume shop. These characters need to be able to sing and move easily in costume. The Wiz is all in green, and is hard to actually see through his costume and projections. It would be cool if his face appeared on the back projections huge and imposing, even as he spoke in Act I.

For Oz, think exotic substances and colors, feather, lace used oddly. Maybe dark leather for the evil Witch and her minions, even the monkey.

The silver slippers, of course!

You will be building many specialized costumes, and will need to get creative in the look of the show. Work closely with your Director. A job for a very creative and experienced Costume Designer.

PROPS:

Addaperle needs her magic tricks. The stuff the Wiz finally gives to Dorothy’s friends. Perhaps not too rough a show, but each production will be different.

LIGHTING:

Very important. The light in Kansas is real, prosaic, Midwestern with a storm blowing in that changes the light.

Oz is all about color. It should immediately pop, perhaps with saturated colors of unexpected hue. The cornfields of Oz where Dorothy meets the scarecrow are not the cornfields of Kansas, they are surreal though familiar. The woods-forest-jungle grow ever “darker”, the light from above becoming increasingly limited. The Emerald City is, um, green, but things must be lit. The throne room is all special effects. The Witch’s palace is all torch light and shadows flickering ominously.

There are numerous ballads that need to be assisted with the right mood, as well. And upbeats should pop. A large job for a pro.

MAKE-UP:

You can go wildly creative, once Dorothy is in Oz. No two types of people in Oz can look alike, but the changes made must be quick and thorough. Wigs will help in many cases. Coordinate design work with the Costumer and Director! A big job.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Make-up Designer, Dorothy, Lion, Evillene, The Wiz.

MY THOUGHTS:
It’s a big show! The sets can be minimized, but they will still be a lot of work, and multi-media is a trial unto itself. Casting should be doubled up as I described, I believe it will give you a more interesting and cost-effective production. But regardless, it’s a version of a famed and large fantasy, The Wizard of Oz. That fact comes with certain audience expectations that you ignore at your peril. The original movie of that name rather famously established the visual bar for this show, too.

Though the technical requirements are a bit heavy, the show must feel light, even buoyant. The dance, the terrific songs, the silly and funny dialogue must all zip along with energy, and should surprise us regularly. This show is an entertainment, but one with a heart. It has a message aimed at anyone who is overwhelmed with life and doing everything they can to get through, get “home.” There is a reason this story is immortal, and is told again and again in different forms. Kit will never date. Somesday, the music in The Wiz, and its overall approach may date it out of the repertoire, but that day has not come. The R&B ballads sound as fresh today as ever.

Now, to marketing. A thought for a pro company, or large local company. Run a big contest to cast Dorothy. Leave it racially open. All comers in the age group can audition. Televise the auditions, make a thing out of it, a national story. Have the Director and Choreographer, and perhaps a star already cast in one of the other roles, in on the “judging”, as well as the audience. Find your Dorothy very publicly, and get a large audience committed to her before you ever go into rehearsals. Just a thought.