Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Oz-ification of Broadway

Gay men  Munchkins  Fans of all things Oz!  Rejoice!  If the stars align as it now looks like they might, New York City will have to pave its streets in yellow bricks and paint the town green.  OK, maybe just Broadway in the yellow brick and Times Square in emerald green.  With the announcement that the London hit play, End of the Yellow Brick Road, will hit Broadway this spring after its American premiere at the Guthrie Theatre, and the transfer of Darth Lord Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz more inevitable as each day passes, anyone who is a fan of anything to do with The Wizard of Oz (books, film or stage adaptations) will be able to get their fill and more.

  • Of course, nothing will be able to dwarf the phenomenon of Wicked the untold story of the Witches of Oz, permanently (and with no end in sight) ensconced at the Gershwin Theatre.  A perennial sell out, this Stephen Schwartz musical adaptation of the popular novel by Gregory Maguire is everywhere - a few National Tours, London, International productions galore.  It has, by itself, become a cultural touchstone, with references to it all over pop culture.

  • Off-Broadway hasn't ignored the girl in the ruby slippers, either.  This summer's free (yes, that's right) theater offering by TheatreWorks USA is The Yellow Brick Road.  It tells the tale of Latina Dora and her friends on the search for home and those fabled red shoes.  Along the way she meets the Scarecrow, Tino, the tin food cart, and a mountain lion kitten.  And, naturally, they go up against La Bruja - the wicked witch!  Tickets are first come - first served daily at the Lucille Lortell Theatre.

  • End of the Yellow Brick Road, a play with music starring Tracie Bennett, star of the original London production.  The play details the last months of Judy Garland, and takes place at a suite in The Ritz, where she reminisces (and probably hallucinates) about her glory days.  The room morphs into a famous nightclub where she sings her standards, including "The Trolley Song" and, of course, "Over the Rainbow".  I expect an emotional mess of a show hovering between tragedy and camp.  No disrespect to Judy, she did it to herself.

  • Though he showed great restraint and common sense in avoiding Broadway with Love Never Dies, until it is fixed at least, I'm pretty sure Andrew Lloyd Webber will bring the audience favorite (and critically dismissed) production of The Wizard of Oz to New York.  Based on the classic MGM film, he had the audacity to try and improve upon it with some of his own material.  While it appalls me - and I am not all the big a friend of Dorothy to begin with - I admit that seeing what he added (along with brilliant lyricist Tim Rice) is my main curiosity that will get me to buy a ticket.  And if Michael Crawford comes with it, I am a bit more interested.

  • It has been on the future listings list for years, but other things keep getting in the way - Jersey Boys, Stratford's Jesus Christ Superstar - but Des McAnuff's re-working of The Wiz still seems a viable possibility sooner or later.  Can you imagine three Broadway musicals  and a play vying for the ticket dollars of Oziphiles all at once?  Thank God gay men still have the highest amount of disposable income!

As Dorothy famously says, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

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