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How Many of These Wizard of Oz Adaptations Have You Seen?

October 26, 2016 by Holden Sperling
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A famed muppet frog once posed the question, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?” In hope for some answers, we decided to take a look at the musicals that examine what life is like over the rainbow.

So, strap on your shimmering slippers as we ease on down the road of musicals based on Frank L. Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz (1903 Broadway)

WizardofOz_Broadway1904
Photo Credit: James Samuel Windeatt, New York Public Library

The Wizard of Oz first landed on the Great White Way over a century ago, in 1903. But if you were to sit through this first stage musical, you’d feel like you weren’t in Kansas anymore. The familiar cast of characters from the well known film isn’t quite the same; the Wicked Witch of the West is nowhere to be seen and Toto has been replaced by a cow. Nevertheless, it was a huge success and lead to many national tours.

The Wizard of Oz (1939 Film)

WizardofOz

Perhaps the most well-known adaptation is the 1939 film version directed by Victor Fleming, starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Frank Morgan, which has become an beloved addition to American pop culture. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but lost to Gone with the Wind. Though it did win two other categories: Best Original Song for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Best Original Score by Herbert Stothart.

The Wiz

the-wiz-1024

It was a brand new day when the old classic received a 1975 update in the form of The Wiz by Charlie Smalls. The groundbreaking musical won a Tony Award for Best Musical and quickly became adapted to a star-studded feature film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

Wicked (2003 Broadway Musical)

Photo Credit: Wharton Center Media
Photo Credit: Wharton Center Media

The award-winning musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West launched Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth into superstardom. Now the tenth longest running Broadway musical, Wicked takes the story of The Wizard of Oz and tells the story before Dorothy dropped in.

The Wizard of Oz (2011 Musical)

WizardofOz_WestEnd
Photo Credit: Photo by Keith Pattison / Courtesy of Wizardofozthemusical.com

Despite the success of the 1939 film, none of the adaptations that followed made it to Broadway, though many played to regional and tour success. The next major production of The Wizard of Oz to be mounted was not until 2011 across the pond in the West End. The production was primarily an adaptation of the film, though there were several new songs added by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was nominated for an Olivier award and went on to tour the US.

Chasing Rainbows  

Photo Credit: Diane Sobolewski
Photo Credit: Diane Sobolewski

Judy, Liza, Barbra, Bette! Learn about the life of a diva in a musical you can’t forget.Chasing Rainbows is a new musical currently playing at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut that chronicles the life of Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the 1939 film. Her story is told through the music she made famous, including songs from The Wizard of Oz. Chasing Rainbow tickets are available on TodayTix and can be purchased here.

All of these great musicals allow audiences to aspire to something new and magical, something greater. Audiences can defy gravity, they can go somewhere over the rainbow, and they can find their true home.