Monday, May 20, 2013

The original Wiz

You know, I really, really hope that 2015 sees at least some small scale revival of the original musical version of The Wiz for its 40th anniversary. (Or maybe I could write to the Little Theater down the street.) I have not been able to see the show live. A few years ago, I got a DVD of a videorecording of the 1985 revival, and there's the Original Cast Recording, and recently, a musical buff sent me an audio recording of the opening night from 1975. And I also have a script book.

As the Original Cast Recording and the script book are the only items available through legitimate means, and I've talked about the Original Cast Recording before, so I'll focus on the script book. (There is a karaoke album available, I should get that eventually.)

Recently, I listened to that audio recording of the opening night of The Wiz and because it was recorded in the audience, sometimes the dialogue is muffled by applause and an enthusiastic woman shouting "Bravo!" So, I decided to listen again and follow along in the script book. Hearing actual audio would enhance my reading of the script book, while seeing the dialogue written would help my mind process what I was hearing better.

The script book is a plain affair. It was printed quite cheaply, likely so it'd be cost effective to buy them in bulk and give them to each performer in a production. In fact, that is exactly what happened to my copy, which I purchased used.
As you can see, in the production my copy had been purchased for, they decided to omit the sequence in which Dorothy and her friends encounter the Kalidah people, so it has been crossed out. When the book was offered for resale, the revision lines were erased. However, the rubbing of the eraser made parts of the text go from black to gray.

Other revisions are made as well. In the poppy field scene, some of the Lion's dialogue is reassigned to the Tinman, and probably most surprising of all is that the Wiz's story was mainly dropped (likely they inserted newly written dialogue), and later... well...
If you look closely, the word "balloon" had been crossed out and the words "space pod" had been written above it.

I recall reading in Allen Eyle's The World of Oz that the play had the Scarecrow on a billboard, the Lion was a football player, and the Wiz had a helicopter. None of these are in the script, but perhaps Mr. Eyles was going off a production he'd seen that had made these alterations.

Of course, a huge part of what made the musical work is the script's humor and the energy that the cast gave their roles. Admittedly, a lot of it is still markedly 70s humor, but there wasn't really anything I didn't understand, except for when the Lion says he's feeling like "Gunga Din." While a film and songs based on a Rudyard Kipling poem must have been somewhat popular about that time, today, they're largely forgotten.

Reading over the script book, I noticed lines missing from songs, and sometimes lyrics were different from what I remember hearing on the Original Cast Recording, or even on the bootleg audio. Perhaps it was a faulty transcription or earlier versions of the lyrics. A major difference is in "What Would I Do If I Could Feel?"
As you can see, in the script book, the Tin Man sings about meeting a baby, while in every other version I've heard or seen, he sings:
What would I do if I could reach inside of me
And know how it feels to say I like what I see?
Then I'd be more than glad to share
All that I have inside of here
And the songs my heart might bring
You'd be more than glad to sing
And if tears should fall from my eyes
Just think of all the wounds they could mend
And just think of all the time I could spend
Just being vulnerable again
 That does make me think that these were earlier versions of the lyrics. There's a book of the vocal and piano score which I don't own (yet) that likely has the more familiar ones.

Even though the book was designed to aid theater companies, as it is the only commercially available edition of the script available, for a look at what The Wiz originally was, I'd suggest fans pick it up.

Buy the script book on Amazon.


Hungry Tiger Talk said...

Alan Eyles was writing about a notoriously weird production of THE WIZ done in England. The Space-Pod comment is interesting - the Wiz's balloon often look very futuristic - a little space=pod like in fact.

Marc Baum of Oz said...

We can ask André De Shields. He was in preproduction and the original WIZ in eth musical in 1975 when it opened on Broadway. Equally amazing to his with and memories of the show- were André's performance of the songs "So you wanted to meet the Wizard" and "Believe in Yourself" at last years Oz-Stravaganza! festival. As for 2015- we are working on getting the cast from the original broadway production to Oz-Stravaganza! for the 40th anniversary- and there is a VERY SPECIAL surprise that may be what you are looking for...exactly! Thanks for sharing info on "the Wiz" which was my first musical on Broadway (to see) and which has been in my blood ever since!

Marc Baum of Oz said...

My typing skills however- leave something to be desired. With should be wit, eth should be The.