Monday, November 26, 2012

Colonial Radio Theater's The Emerald City of Oz

After 12 years, Colonial Radio Theater finally returns to Oz with The Emerald City of Oz. Their adaptation of The Road to Oz ended with a hint at Emerald City, yet it took some time for it to come out. Last year, CRT writer Jerry Robbins was interviewed on the Royal Podcast of Oz and gave us the scoop.

As it's twelve years later, there is not a perfect audio continuity for CRT's Oz. Right off, the wonderful "From Boston, it's the Colonial Radio Players!" opening is missing, and neither is the ending featuring a suite of the wonderful music. I guess these things happen.

Much more notable is the cast. Much of it has changed! Kerry Donovan replaces Amy Strack as Dorothy, bringing her own interpretation of the character. Mark McGillivray and Joe Caliendo Jr. take over as the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Woodman, respectively. Hugh Metzler plays the Wizard instead of Robert Mackey, though the CRT Facebook page noted that this is "one of his final roles with CRT," so they may have to get a third voice for the character. Also changed are the voice actors for the Nome King, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry.

Returning are Tom Berry as the Scarecrow, Joseph Zamparelli as the Shaggy Man and Jerry Robbins reprises his take on L. Frank Baum. Leigh Ann Price is also back as Ozma, except she is now credited as Leigh Berry. I guess Ozma married the Scarecrow!

The new voices, though notably different, are not jarringly different. I really enjoyed Kerry's interpretation of Dorothy, and Hugh's take on the Wizard was excellent. Also, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry now really sound like a Kansas farmer and his wife. The Nome King's voice is much improved over Ozma of Oz. That voice, though warm yet menacing, was much better suited for King Dox when it was reused for that character in The Road to Oz. Now, he's suitably grumpy!

If you've heard any of CRT's Oz adaptations, you probably know to expect a faithful adaptation that uses much of the original dialogue from the book with some of the prose adapted into dialogue to eliminate the need of a narrator. So, there isn't much need to cover the story as it is the same one from the book, just with some omissions to make it fit into two hours.

The omissions of course aren't major enough to alter the story. Guph's visit to the Whimsies is not included, but he tells the Nome King he's enlisting them and they briefly discuss them. Also missing is Guph encountering the Scarlet Alligator on Mount Phantistico. I can only assume these scenes didn't carry over to audio that well, particularly since they'd be better as visuals than audio.

Some elements from Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's tour of Oz are excised. Gone is the Woggle-Bug's college, the kangaroo outside Fuddlecumjig (don't worry, the Fuddles are still there) and Grandmother Gnit, the arguing zebra and crab, and Bunnybury. The history of the Forbidden Fountain is not discussed either.

So this means that you will hear the delightfully absurd towns of Utensia, Rigamarole, and Flutterbudget Center.

Something odd I noticed was that when Ozma discovers the Nome King's plot, the Magic Picture is referred to as a mirror. But later, it is the Magic Picture once again. Maybe some magic went awry...

Overall though, with the voice changes, omissions, and an odd change for one scene, this proved to be every bit as delightful as the original five audio adaptations of the Oz books from CRT. I look forward to more!

Read my review of the first five.
Order The Emerald City of Oz on CD.


Jerry Robbins said...

Hi Jared, and thanks for the review! Just to clarify, Amy Strack has since married and is now the mother of twins, and as such, she has not recorded with us in about 4 years. We have not heard from Bob Mackie in many years, and Hugh Metzler, who replaced him as the Wizard, has, sadly, since passed away. Our original Tin Man has moved and now lives about 8 hours away, and the actor who played our Lion has not been in contact with us in at least ten years; so the passage of time necessitated the changes. However, I think our Aunt Em is the same; I know Marcia Friedman played her in the first OZ we did, but I can't remember if Em makes an appearance in the other 4; and I played Uncle Henry in the first book, then turned it over to Rik Pierce, who was not available for EMERALD. As for the Magic Mirror/Picture - that was a flub that was not caught - until you listened! I think we need you to proof them next time! Thank again - cheers Jerry Robbins

Jared said...

Huh, well I think your performances of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were quite different this time around. This time they had more of a country accent.

MaskedMan said...

I just heard "Emerald City" this week, and enjoyed it immensely; what a joy to hear that music again! And if only one cast member stayed on, I would hope that it would be Leigh Ann Price/Berry; no kidding, I applauded when I heard her voice! Kerry Donovan makes a delightful Dorothy, if just a little uncharacteristically snarky at times.

Jared, I will have to listen again, but I believe Guph's visit to the Whimsies was in fact present.

Mr. Robbins, thanks much for these productions, and I hope we will eventually hear all of Baum's books brought to life by Colonial!

P.S.: Need more actors? :-)