Monday, March 26, 2012

"Once Upon A Time, When There Was Magic Everywhere"

Hey, magic is everywhere! And it will touch you if you really care! If you care, if you care, you'll find that magic is everywhere!

Look up... ... Sorry, got carried away there.

Well, with all the people making records retelling The Wizard of Oz, MGM themselves had to get into it, right? Yep, and here's a record from 1961 with their own version.

I'll do an uncommon aside and talk about the cover art. This artwork looks very similar to the character designs that would be later used in the TV show Off To See The Wizard, especially with the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow. The Wizard looks quite a bit like John R. Neill's version.

The record was one in a series of many stories retold for children (they seem to have all opened with a musical sting and the line "Once upon a time, when there was magic everywhere."

Despite crediting Baum, the story follows the MGM movie quite closely. The story has been condensed, of course, and a narrator helps with that. The Munchkinland sequence is just "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead" and then the Wicked Witch of the West appears. There is also no poppy field scene.

None of the audio is from the film (dialogue from the film appeared on its first actual soundtrack recording to retell the story), and the actors don't sound a lot like the film's cast, though they present an admirable performance.

Although the cover only says "If I Only Had A Brain," all three of Dorothy's friends sing. The Lion's song is an alternate version:
Life is sad, believe me Missy,
When you're born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve.

But I could change my habits,
Nevermore be scared of rabbits
If I only had the nerve.

I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandylion
A fate I don't deserve.

But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion not a mowess
If I only had the nerve.

Oh, I'd be in my stride, a king down to the core
Oh, I'd roar the way I never roared before
And then I'd rrrwoof
And roar some more.

I would show the dinosaurus
Who's king around the fores'
A king they'd better serve.

Why with my regal beezer,
I could be another Caesar
If I only had the nerve.
The story spills over to Side 2, where it wraps up, and the rest of the record is filled out with a retelling of Babes in Toyland. Interesting and fitting choice, as the original operetta was a follow up to the original Wizard of Oz stage extravaganza.

However, this album tells a different story from the operetta. Here Gonzorgo takes Alan and Jane to the Forest of No Return, where they head to Toyland. Barnaby arrives and uses a machine to turn the children into toys, but later, he is forced into the machine himself by toy soldiers, and he turns into a toy bear, somehow restoring the children to their natural forms, and Alan marries Contrary Mary. I find it strange how few adaptations follow the original libretto's story. The listed songs are there, though.

In today's age, this might get passed over. We have the MGM movie on home video, so if we want to relive the movie, all we have to do is start it up. Still, this record is interesting as the children's record is a thing of the past now. Recordings like this just aren't made anymore.

And there's the very different take on "If I Only Had The Nerve." That's worth listening to, as well.

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