Saturday, June 29, 2013

Songs in the Key of Oz

One of the undisputed highlights of the 2011 Winkie Convention was a concert given on Saturday night by Joe Cascone and David Haines. Called "Songs in the Key of Oz," Joe and David presented a number of Oz songs from the past 109 years. It was delightful, even though it was just two men and a piano.

This year at Winkies, I was helping at at the Swap Shop and Joe and David arrived and set up a table right next to us. They unveiled a "Songs in the Key of Oz" CD and I had to get one! So, I bought two, one for me, and one for Sam, since I knew he'd want one. (He paid me back.)

The CD is quite different from the 2011 Winkies concert. It's from a later performance, as Joe and David have apparently performed this several times since. You can hear David Maxine introduce them at the beginning of track 1, but that's all there is from Winkies.

The first track is a medley of songs about the Emerald City. I remember that it marked the first time I clearly heard the "There's a garden spot I'm told/Where's it's never too hot and it's never too cold" additional opening lyrics for "The Merry Old Land of Oz." Those lyrics open this medley, then slide right into "One Short Day" from Wicked! Also embedded were lyrics from "The Emerald City" from the Happy Time Players/Mr. Pickwick Players Wizard of Oz story album, the "Seen Green" segment from The Wiz Emerald City song sequence, and original to the CD (not at Winkies), some of "The Emerald City" song from Joe and the late J.P. Doyle's musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It makes for a wonderful opening.

Then there's a cover of "The Wonders of Oz," the song from the 1964 Return to Oz. Then, Joe introduces and moves into songs from the original Oz musical extravaganza. The duo perform the Scarecrow's song (which was not performed at Winkies), the quickly-dropped "Guardian of the Gate" song, "When We Get What's A-Coming To Us," and "Hurrah for Baffin's Bay."

Then, there's a lively rendition of "What Did The Woggle Bug Say?" Having once made a MIDI straight from the sheet music, I noted the music was re-orchestrated to be more lively, and sure enough, the reason for that is made clear after they got through all the verses. David got up and held up a banner with the lyrics on it, inviting the audience to sing along!

Next up are songs from The Woggle-Bug ("My Little Maid of Oz"), The Tik-Tok Man of Oz ("The Clockwork Man"), and Baum and Louis F. Gottschalk's abandoned musical adaptation of The Patchwork Girl of Oz ("The Shaggy Man Song"/"A Song of Ozland").

Then, there's "two songs from a movie you may have seen," "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!" and "The Jitterbug" from the MGM film The Wizard of Oz. "Ding-Dong!" contains the opening lyrics not in the film, "Once there was a wicked witch in the lovely Land of Oz..." "Jitterbug" has a different opening verse than what was intended for the film. ("Listen all you chillun to that voodoo moan/There's a modern villun worser than that old boogie woogie/When that goofy critter spots your fancy clothes/He injects a jitter, Starts you dancing on a thousand toes, There he goes!")

Next up is a medley of songs from the abandoned Disney film, The Rainbow Road to Oz, using two songs from the Disneyland segment ("Patches" and "The Rainbow Road to Oz") and two songs that wound up on The Cowardly Lion of Oz album with some different lyrics ("Living a Lovely Life" and "If You Believe" with different lyrics as "Why Don't They Believe?"). This year at Winkies, Joe and David performed the medley again, but with a new song, "The Lost Princess of Oz," added to the mix. How on earth they turned up all this material is simply astonishing! (To clarify, "Lost Princess" is not on the CD.)

Then comes two songs from one of Joe's favorite Oz films, Journey Back to Oz: "There's a Faraway Land" and "Keep A Happy Thought." These are followed by "The Wonderful Land of Oz," the main song from the Banner Elk "Land of Oz" theme park. Then, there are two songs from The Wiz: "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" and "If You Believe."

Jumping ahead over 20 years, we get to the latest stage versions of Oz with "No One Mourns the Wicked" and "Wonderful" from Wicked, and the original song "Already Home" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. (Trivia: when the song was performed at Winkies, it was actually the first time it was performed in North America.)

The concert on the CD closes out with what Joe and David bill as the quintessential Oz song. What it is, I won't spoil it for you!

A major difference between the concert preserved on CD and the performance at Winkies is that after a break, Joe and David performed several songs from Joe and J.P. Doyle's musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, using a bit of narration to tell the familiar story with the songs. Perhaps this was a Winkies exclusive, but at the end of that, they gave an encore piece that mixed several songs to give the performance a grand finish. That finale is not on the CD, so attendees of the 2011 Winkie Convention experienced something that perhaps no other audience has.

The exclusion of the songs from Joe's musical from the CD is all right, considering that there has been two CDs of cast recordings released. The former was for sale by Hungry Tiger Press, the second is available directly from the Civic Light Opera Company. While it's not the same, you can at least hear those wonderful songs at home in some form.

The CD of "Songs in the Key of Oz" contains three bonus tracks: "If I Only Had A Brain," from Joe's CD "Show Tunes I Do," which actually covers the songs of all three of Dorothy's friends from the MGM film, plus those additional opening lyrics! ("Said a scarecrow swinging on a pole/To some blackbirds sittin' on a fence/Oh, the Lord gave me a soul/But, forgot to give me common sense./If I had an ounce of common sense...") The next two tracks are excerpts from the above linked CD of Joe's Wizard of Oz musical, David's Cowardly Lion song "'Fraid Not!" and Joe's L. Frank Baum number, "Just a Touch of Humbug," which is one of the best numbers in the show. (But believe me, picking out a bad number from that one is really tough!)

My only complaint with the CD is that the sound is a little low. I usually rip my CDs, put the files on my mp3 player and listen to it on the go, but unless I was in a quiet place, listening was a little difficult, even with the volume turned all the way up. As such, this is more of an album to sit back and enjoy.

And now you're wondering "How do I get a copy?" Well, Hungry Tiger Press is selling it! You can get your copy here.

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