Monday, December 28, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: A Tribute to Rob Roy MacVeigh

The 100th episode of The Royal Podcast of Oz​ is a tribute to the late Rob Roy MacVeigh. Sam Milazzo​ and Jared Davis briefly discuss what they know about Rob's never-realized animated film version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then Eric P Gjovaag​, Karyl Carlson​ and Marilyn Carlson share their memories of Rob, followed by David Maxine​ and a brief word from Eric Shanower​. Then Garrett Kilgore​ reads a number of anecdotes about Rob from some of his friends.

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site or use the player below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Rob Roy MacVeigh, mid 1980s (photo by Peter Hanff)

The Wiz Live: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Over the past couple months, we very excitedly posted about NBC's The Wiz Live and enthusiastically reviewed it and the merchandise that followed it. And while I don't regret doing that, I do have to admit, we kind of glossed over some of the problems noticed in the production. This was more so as not to spoil some of these details for anyone who hadn't seen them yet, not to lie about them.

However, the time for bringing up these up is here, so just remember, I did like it, the following is not saying the production is inherently bad, in fact, I still enjoy it and find it more enjoyable than Diana Ross crying about her dog and introversion for 134 minutes.

Dorothy wants to go home to... Omaha?
Harvey Fierstein said he wanted to strengthen Dorothy's character and clarify what happened to her parents. L. Frank Baum's original book simply says that Dorothy was an orphan and although he later clarified that Uncle Henry was Dorothy's blood relative, he didn't dwell on it much. Fierstein has Aunt Em say that she's the older sister of Dorothy's mother, eliminating Uncle Henry from The Wiz Live. (Not a major loss as Uncle Henry's presence in the original version of The Wiz amounted to a few lines of dialogue.) She further says Dorothy's parents were killed in an accident and that they lived in an aparment. Dorothy, having moved away from her old school and friends, feels dissatisfied with Kansas and wants to go back to Omaha.

However, rather than have Dorothy try to suggest to Aunt Em that she sell the farm and they move there together, Fierstein just had Dorothy want to go back to Omaha. For what? Since they lived in an apartment, Dorothy would likely find a locked door or another family living there. Where would she stay? Yes, her old friends are there, but it's also 2015, she can keep up with them on Facebook.

This alteration makes Dorothy say she wants to go to Omaha rather than Kansas when she meets Addaperle and the Wiz, but when the Wiz leaves in her balloon, Dorothy decides that she does need to go to Kansas, not Omaha. Which doesn't make much sense under a critical eye as the Wiz might wind up in either or neither place when she leaves Oz, and in any case, getting back to America, Dorothy would be able to get a bus home to Kansas much more easily than she could from Emerald City.

The Wiz is a woman!
When it was announced that Queen Latifah would be playing the Wiz—a role that has traditionally been male—some fans had a knee-jerk negative reaction. There's some concern about why the gender matters: the Wizard is a vulnerable male character while Dorothy, the Good Witches and even the Wicked Witch are all empowered female characters. Making the character female means you break that switch and turn the Wizard into an all-too-common vulnerable female.

However, this is The Wiz. While the Wizard has a moment of weakness in the original play—highlighted by the song "Who Do You Think You Are?"—but as he explains his story and gives Dorothy's friends their gifts and sings his own version of "Believe In Yourself" to them, he builds up his own strength of character again. This, with a female character, would be quite palatable.

However, Fierstein decided to change the Wiz's backstory (and neither song was used in The Wiz Live), and reveal she got into the balloon to get away from her abusive partner, a magician she assisted. Her exit from Oz was intended for her to go back and face him. Except I disagree with that. When you leave an abusive relationship, you don't owe your abuser anything. She has nothing she needs to go back to, while in Oz, she's the ruler of the fabulous Emerald City, where she could go out now without fear of the Wicked Witches and vogue away with the citizens to her heart's content. (Or, as Mari Ness suggested, become friends with those pretty poppy girls.)

"We Got It"
The Wiz Live featured a new song, written specifically for it titled "We Got It." The point of this song would be for Dorothy and her friends to band together as they go to defeat Evilene. The thing is, haven't we already seen these characters bond in the Kalidah and Poppy scenes and every reprise of "Ease On Down The Road?" It felt like a forced addition, suddenly making Dorothy's friends attempt to abandon her.

I'm sure other fans could come up with other issues they had with The Wiz Live. Certainly, one thing I would have preferred is if they could have gotten someone to really belt "No Bad News" rather than Mary J. Blige just singing it. Some would have preferred that they would have just stuck to the original script. Some probably would have preferred different casting, different costumes and sets, different choreography, even an attempt to completely recreate the original Broadway show from 1975 for TV. But, this is subjective and many people will have a different opinion on what should have been done differently.

For this blog, I've simply cut it to the issues I think are most valid, where the attempts at an update didn't really work out as much as they would have liked. Unlike NBC's other live musicals, however, The Wiz Live is expected to move to Broadway, where they can attempt to fix what didn't quite work out. Let's hope they do.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

THE WIZ LIVE DVD and Soundtrack CD

Well, now that The Wiz Live! has happened and is done with (aside from its expected relocation on Broadway), how can we enjoy it now?

Well, as of today, the DVD is out, giving Oz fans a physical copy to have on their shelves.

The DVD isn't quite how viewers on December 3 saw the production as some botched camera angles and sound mixing have been corrected between the live broadcast and when the DVD went to press. Most importantly, Dorothy now clicks her heels three times. (In my review of the broadcast, I mentioned that the camera caught only one and a half clicks.)

The DVD is a pretty plain affair, opening on a simple menu that lets you select either playing The Wiz Live or the lone bonus feature, The Making of the Wiz Live. There is no chapter selection menu, subtitles or closed captions. (Digital video versions that support captions/subtitles include them, so Universal missed a beat.) I don't suppose there's many other bonus features that should have been added, unless they wanted to add at least some of the several TV spots that aired to promote it, or the introduction with Queen Latifah that aired in front of the broadcast. (There were several interviews with the cast and crew, but there may have been licensing issues when it came to including these.)

There are chapter breaks, most of them where the commercial breaks happened. The first one occurs right after the Tornado segment as lights come up in Munchkin Country.

It appears that The Making of the Wiz Live has been altered after its initial broadcast. The original broadcast contained clips from The Wiz on Broadway in 1975 and The Wiz movie. Now it only contains stills.

Lack of chapter menu and subtitles aside, the only major disappointment with this disc is that it's only on DVD, no Blu-Ray has been announced. Watching it on my computer, the image looked rather soft and some of the finer details blurred, which is what happens when you're limited to 480p. This is a fine look for DVD, but I know I'm not alone in wishing Universal would revisit this one on Blu-Ray with a nice 1080p encode so we can see it in full quality. They could also add in the subtitles as well.

I'd recommend any Oz/Wiz collector pick up the soundtrack album as well. It's available on CD and digital, with a nice booklet offering an appreciation of The Wiz, a synopsis of the show, the complete lyrics of all the songs on the album, complete credits for the album, and lots of photos. This booklet would make a nice companion for the DVD, but unfortunately, no one (except Criterion) does booklets for DVDs anymore.

The tracks are not culled from the broadcast, but studio-recorded. When we first saw the track listing, I noted it was very similar to the Original Broadway Cast Recording album.

  1. Prologue
  2. The Feeling We Once Had
  3. Tornado
  4. He's the Wizard
  5. Soon As I Get Home
  6. You Can't Win
  7. Ease On Down The Road
  8. Slide Some Oil To Me
  9. Mean Ole Lion
  10. Be A Lion
  11. So You Wanted To See The Wizard
  12. What Would I Do If I Could Feel
  13. We Got It
  14. Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News
  15. A Brand New Day
  16. Y'all Got It
  17. Believe in Yourself
  18. Home (same as the single track released in late November)
Yeah, take out "We Got It," swap out "You Can't Win" for "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday" and change the name of "A Brand New Day" to "Everybody Rejoice," and it'd be identical to the Original Broadway Cast album's listing.

I wonder if that was intentional, particularly as just as the OBC album mashed the last two versions of "Ease On Down the Road" together to make a new 2-verse version, and this new album uses that same arrangement. This verse isn't present on the album:
'Cause there may be times
When you think you lost your mind
And the steps you're takin'
Leave you three, four steps behind
You just keep on keepin'
On the road that you choose
Don't you give up walkin'
'Cause you gave up shoes,
 Overall, if you loved the songs as they were heard in the broadcast or the DVD, you'll love being able to play them on their own.

I do, however, wish they'd included more of the music. There was no need to cut "Ease On Down The Road" to one version, because with digital and CD, there was no limit on how long the album needed to run, unlike the Original Broadway Cast album. Well, CDs do hold up to 80 minutes. The tracks here have a running time of 48 minutes and 28 seconds, meaning there'd have been room for, at the very least, the music heard in the Emerald City scene or the Poppy scene.

Even with my quibbles, I'd recommend both the DVD and CD to fans of The Wiz! Unless you're reading this at a time when Universal has released it to Blu-Ray. Then definitely get the Blu-Ray instead of the DVD.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Shanice Williams Beats the Wiz

The Wiz Live! - The latest of NBC's live stage productions was also the first one I've seen. I hadn't seen The Wiz on stage before, but I did watch the rather bizarre movie version, see a review of the songs in Central Park earlier this year, and listen to the original cast recording. Not all of the original songs were included, but more were than in the film. Since someone who could actually sing (Queen Latifah) took the title role this time, we did get to hear a few of the character's songs, but not all of them. And the Scarecrow sang "You Can't Win" instead of "I Was Born the Day Before Yesterday." "You Can't Win" was originally written to be sung by the Winkie slaves, but cut from the show, then resurrected for Michael Jackson's Scarecrow in the movie. I'm not sure why they added a new song when they didn't even use all of the ones that already existed, but maybe it's like how there's a new song in the Les Miserables movie so that it could be nominated for an Oscar. Are there awards for original songs in television productions? I've seen complaints about the song performances, particularly Mary J. Blige doing "Don't Nobody Give Me No Bad News," but I didn't have any problems with them. I guess I'm just not as much of an audiophile.
The costumes were excellent, including totally over-the-top dresses for the witches and weird nightclub outfits for the inhabitants of the Emerald City. Shanice Williams made a really cute Dorothy, and original Broadway Dorothy Stephanie Mills made an appearance as Aunt Em. The effects were somewhat lacking, and I should point out that I hardly expected Hollywood-level special effects from a televised stage play. It was more that the credits announced members of Cirque de Soleil, but they weren't used particularly effectively. We didn't even get to see the Winged Monkeys do anything. By the way, the production called the Monkeys "Winged Warriors," perhaps due to the potential uncomfortable association with African-American actors playing monkeys. Probably not necessary, but since their role was so small, it didn't really matter anyway. And melting Evillene just made her disappear? Maybe they should have used the acrobat budget on a trapdoor instead. I've also seen complaints about the modern humor they threw in, like Addaperle saying her magic slate was an Apple product (yes, they mentioned a sponsor in the production, then had their product not work properly) and the Wiz's giant head having an orange extension cord. While I can't say I found them especially funny, they didn't really bother me either. I kind of wonder how modern critics want updated productions of The Wizard of Oz to be. The story was published in 1900, the most famous movie came out in 1939, and The Wiz started in 1974. So would seventies references be acceptable, but not ones from after that? I also found it interesting that they made a few allusions to the MGM film, when I get the impression that the show was originally supposed to be totally distinct from that. Another comment I remember from Twitter is why the revelation that the Wiz was a woman was included at all, since this was a land already ruled by women. Maybe it was sort of the equivalent of how the Wizard appeared to the Scarecrow in a supposedly female form back in the book. Overall, I enjoyed it very much, but did it really need so many commercial breaks?

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Wiz Live!

It's taken me a bit to sit down and write this one. Just, wow!

Back in 2012, when they announced a live TV version of The Sound of Music, I hoped that it would lead to a televised version of The Wiz. Why? Because most people don't know The Wiz as it originated on Broadway. They mostly know it from the movie, which literally tossed out the original script and wrote a new one around a different adaptation concept. And unlike some other musicals (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Rent, Victor/Victoria, The Phantom of the Opera), there's no filmed version of the play on home video for people to see and become familiar with. (Aside from some bootlegs...)

And then, after last year's Peter Pan Live!, people were asking "what will be NBC's next live musical?" I automatically said, "They should do The Wiz!" Some felt it unlikely, but a year later, here we are.

NBC announced a great cast to lead the musical, but some news was met with trepidation, such as going for "You Can't Win" instead of "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday" for the Scarecrow, a number of songs not appearing on the soundtrack track listing, a female take on the title character, and when the details of script revision by Harvey Fierstein were divulged, more than a few eyebrows were raised. One friend who was at a press event even told me the book had wholly been rewritten.

Well, last night, I pulled up Twitter and watched on TV to see how it was.

Overall... After having expectations lowered, I was impressed!

I'm not going to walk you through the story as it is, of course, the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. William F. Brown's original script for The Wiz is largely adhered to, although several items are omitted, generally for pacing, though the loss of some nice jokes make me still recommend that anyone interested in The Wiz pick up a copy of the script book.

Fierstein attempts to strengthen Dorothy's character by introducing the idea that she has recently come to live with Aunt Em (Uncle Henry is not mentioned in this version at all, but we do have some farmhands ala MGM, which has been done in productions of The Wiz before). It's established that Dorothy's parents died (they note that previous versions gloss over this detail, but Baum's original book says she's an orphan) and that Dorothy misses her old life in Omaha, Nebraska. This is something Harvey returns to.

One thing brought over from the musical is that Toto doesn't go to Oz. This actually spurred a trend on Twitter, asking where Toto was. Quite simply, having to deal with a dog onstage is tricky, particularly in a show like The Wiz where there is also a lot of dancing. So, for this take on the story, Toto stays behind in Kansas. (In the original play, he reappears in the final moments of the show, signifying that Dorothy got home.)

The Tornado was depicted by camera effects, some wire-flying, and Cirque Du Soleil dancers. I'm going to have to admit that for all we saw of those famous performers (the Tornado, the Kalidahs, people of the Emerald City(?), the Winged Warriors and Glinda's handmaidens), there was nothing that stood out so much as to convince me that they needed someone of that talent.

The transformations onstage (moving from scene to scene) were performed by some changing scenery and some projected backdrops, which allowed  for some nice visuals that didn't really detract from the acting. The Wiz was originally staged with minimal set design, and this allowed for them to repeat that, but also have more.

So, as Dorothy heads down the yellow brick road, her aim is not to head back to Aunt Em and Toto, but to go back to her old life in Omaha, even though Aunt Em pointed out that there's nothing for her back there but an empty apartment. During the Kalidah scene (after the Lion joins the party), a Kalidah almost tempts Dorothy into giving her the Silver Shoes by appearing as her mother before the Tin Man stops her. Later, the Lion sneakily defeats the Poppies in the Poppy Fields (instead of falling asleep, anyone caught there becomes their slave until winter). The Emerald City now looks more like a dance club, and the gatekeeper has even been renamed the Bouncer, and most of his dialogue rewritten to reflect that.

The Wiz uses a big, mechanical head to talk to the four friends at first before the Wiz appears in person, singing "So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard," and after they are tasked with killing Evilene, the other friends decide they can't do it, launching into the new song "We Got It," which now feels a little forced at that moment and doesn't feel like a Wiz song, although it's not bad.

Evilene has taken over a boiler factory and it's here that her scenes are played out. The "Funky Monkeys" sequence was far too short, being over in just a minute as the "Winged Warriors" drop a net over Dorothy and her friends. (Apparently, a few things were changed out of concerns of racial connections...) Evilene's exit felt a little too quick as she disappears in a burst of steam with nothing left behind. The Winkies remove their work clothes, revealing yellow clothes underneath as they sing "Brand New Day."

Back in the Emerald City, the Wiz is unmasked as a woman from Omaha who was a magician's assistant but ran off in the balloon after he "pushed her too far." She then tells Dorothy's friends that they have the qualities they seek all along, and then Scarecrow and Dorothy convince the Wiz to use the balloon to go back home. At the last minute, Dorothy realizes she should go back to Kansas, not Omaha and refuses to go with the Wiz. (Although, you know, Omaha is a lot closer to Kansas, so... It'd still be a step in the right direction...)

The script stayed pretty faithful to Brown's original script throughout Act 1, largely changing in Act 2 with Evilene. Harvey updated a good bit of dialogue, though he brushed out some other funny moments. ("A pox on your house!" "A pox on my house?" "A pox on both your houses!" "My summer place, too?")

Although I'm sure the most critical could point out problems, I had few issues with the cast. I loved Stephanie Mills as Aunt Em, Shanice Williams as Dorothy, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier as her friends, and Amber Riley as Addaperle "The Feel Good Girl!" Common as the Bouncer nicely filled the role, but honestly, I'd rather just like to get a copy of his costume...

Mary J. Blige as Evilene was quite mean, and while she did a great rendition of "No Bad News," I would have preferred it to be sung by someone who could really belt it out. Uzo Aduba's Glinda was lovely, but I felt her time onstage was even more abbreviated without her singing "A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind" and some of the jokes present in the original Brown script.

This brings us to Queen Latifah as The Wiz. This is—to my knowledge—the first time the character of the Wizard of Oz has been genderbent, but Queen did such a fine job, I was actually hoping they would not have done that to the character, but just had Queen play a male role. To be honest, though, I'm not sure why genderbending the character required a backstory change. Couldn't the Wizard's original backstory work for a female version just as well? Overall, I'm fine with how it ended up, however.

And now for music. Four songs from the original musical lineup were dropped: "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday" (the Scarecrow's original song, which actually makes a nice foil to "You Can't Win), "Who Do You Think You Are?" (a song sung by the four friends when they discover the Wiz is a phony),  "Believe in Yourself #1" (sung by the Wiz as he or she assures Dorothy's friends they had what they sought all along), and "A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind" (sung by Glinda as she makes her entrance). As mentioned in other blogs, "Who Do You Think You Are" and "A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind" have never had a commercially released recording. In addition, several instrumental only pieces are cut quite short, particularly "Overture" and "Funky Monkeys."

Perhaps if plans to bring this version to Broadway don't fall through, some of these songs could be reinstated. I know I'm not alone in the hope that such a revival could produce its own cast recording album.

Seems like it all came together all right, right? Well... No... Some of the camera work was off. You could still follow the story quite well, but as I noted above, if Cirque Du Soleil did something truly spectacular, I missed it. Some closeups should have been wide shots and vice versa. Most criminally of all, we only got to see Dorothy clicking her heels one and a half times instead of three.

Although people who'll see this on home video will not see this, the timeslot was certainly overstuffed with commercials. Without them, The Wiz Live ran for a little less than two hours, but the timeslot was about two hours and forty-five minutes. On my end, we had some abrupt resuming of the show, including losing the first thirty seconds of the scene where Dorothy and company return to the Emerald City after Evilene's death. It was nice to see some ads for Wicked, though, and be reminded that I'll be seeing that next year at last.

Even though there were several quibbles I had, I'd definitely suggest people check out this version of The Wiz for an enjoyable production that hews much closer to the original play than the 1978 film.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Wiz trivia!

With The Wiz Live! to debut on NBC tomorrow, here's some facts you may or may not have known about this property.
  • The creator of The Wiz, Ken Harper, initially thought of the property as a TV special or an episode of a series that would reimagine classic stories as told through an African-American context.
  • The director of the original production—Trinidad-born Geoffrey Holder—replaced Gilbert Moses. Holder was brought on because of his incredible costume designs. Some Oz fans may know Holder as Willie Shakespeare and Punjab in the films Doctor Doolittle (1967) and Annie (1982) and the narrator of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), as well as his 7-Up commercials.
  • The Wiz opened on Broadway on January 5, 1975 with a closing notice as the show wasn't expected to be a hit. However, unexpected support from church groups and a TV commercial helped pull it ahead and become a hit musical that ran until the end of January, 1979.
  • The original Broadway cast album of The Wiz was arranged to also work as a pop album. This resulted in the rearrangement and dropping of several songs and instrumentals.
  • Motown bought the film rights to The Wiz in 1977 and signed Stephanie Mills to star. However, Diana Ross was interested in starring in the film. When she convinced Rob Cohen of Universal to help fund the picture if she was cast, Mills was out and Ross was in.
  • Despite not reprising her role in the movie, Stephanie Mills says she has no hard feelings towards Diana Ross, citing her career went a different route. She has also recently reported that she visited the film's set while she was dating Michael Jackson and even had discussions with Diana Ross.
  • The original musical won several Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Original Score (Charlie Smalls), Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Ted Ross), Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Best Direction of a Musical (Geoffrey Holder), Best Choreography (George Faison), and Best Costume Design (Geoffrey Holder).
  • Stephanie Mills reprised the role of Dorothy in revivals in 1984 and 1993. The ending song "Home" became a staple of her repertoire, and she would usually sing it in her concerts. She attempted to stop using the song and move on from the role that made her a star, only to bring it back after the death of songwriter Charlie Smalls in his memory.
  • The surviving lead cast of MGM's The Wizard of Oz—Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton—all enjoyed the stage musical. Haley and Bolger even presented the musical with its Tony Awards for Choreography and Direction, respectively. Bolger, however, was not taken with the film version, saying it would never come close to the status of the MGM classic.
  • MGM's lyricist, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, did not share the cast's enjoyment of the play, calling it “a theatrical disgrace in keeping with the ugliness of today’s culture.”
  • The 1978 film version is drastically different from the original musical with a completely different script and differences in song selections and usage. Filming on location in New York City, the film went over budget at $24 million, but only took in $13.6 million at the box office. The film was also panned by critics. Television and home video provided a new home for the film, earning it cult classic status.  
  • The 1978 film was set to get a special DC Comics magazine featuring a comics adaptation of the film and a spinoff album titled Diana Ross Sings Songs from The Wiz. Both went unreleased, though the album has recently been released through digital music services.
  • ABC was interested in a TV version of The Wiz to follow their TV version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella featuring Brandy and Whitney Houston. They even cast then-unknown Anika Noni Rose to play Dorothy. However, they discovered the rights were at Universal and shelved the production. Robert Iscove mentioned that he met Anika on her audition, which led him to sign her for a later theatrical film, From Justin to Kelly. The producers of the shelved version would go on to produce The Wiz Live!
  • The grand song of Act 2, "Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day" is the only song in the original play not to be written by Charlie Smalls, but rather Luther Vandross. Quincy Jones composed several new pieces of music for the film version. The new Emerald City song sequence featured new lyrics by Charlie Smalls, while the other original songs were written with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.
  • The Wiz Live! features David Alan Grier and Queen Latifah as the Cowardly Lion and the Wiz, respectively. They had previously appeared in The Muppets Wizard of Oz as Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, and David also played the Wiz himself in a La Jolla Playhouse revival of the play.
  • "You Can't Win" was initially written for the Winkies to sing after Evilene captures Dorothy, but was removed. It was later considered for a new song for the people of the Emerald City to sing to Dorothy and her friends to close Act 1. It was ultimately dropped, but the film version substituted it in place of "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday." This replacement has been repeated in some stage productions and The Wiz Live!
  • Another song, "Wonder Wonder Why" was written for the play, but ultimately dropped. It appears that it was considered for use in the film version, but was dropped. (Diana Ross did record a version of it.) Stephanie Mills would later sing it after Dorothy was captured by Evilene in the 1984 revival of the musical. Diana Ross' version of the song has recently been released on the album Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz.
  • The play and songs have been translated and performed in Dutch and German. Other English language versions have been performed all over the world.
  • Mabel King and Ted Ross were cast as Evilene and the Cowardly Lion again in the film version after playing those roles in the debut cast on Broadway.
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater's Tony Award-winning role of Glinda was on stage for less than ten minutes. Geoffrey Holder, when asked about it, mentioned "Broadway politics," David Maxine interpreting it to mean that her win was a sign of solidarity for her husband, fired Wiz director Gilbert Moses. Stephanie Mills, despite receiving acclaim for her role, was not nominated.
  • The Wiz Live! features a new song "We Got It" to close the Act 1 section of the play. It is written by cast members Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelley along with Harvey Mason Jr. and Stephen Oremus. 
  • Stephanie Mills has said that her role as a little girl was so convincing that she was sent gifts such as toys. She would donate these to hospitals and charitable organizations.
  • Stephanie Mills appeared in The Wiz Live! as Aunt Em.
  • The film apparently had an original song removed late in the editing. "Is This What Feeling Gets?" appears on the soundtrack album and the opening of the music is heard in the film after the friends meet the Wiz as Dorothy's friends talk to her in a motel room. Presumably it was dropped because it would have been a little over three minutes of Diana Ross just singing sadly in a hotel room.
Here is a complete listing of all the songs that have been used in The Wiz:
  • The Feeling That We Had
  • Can I Go On? ** ~
  • Tornado *
  • He's The Wizard
  • Soon As I Get Home
  • I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday * ~
  • You Can't Win **
  • Ease On Down The Road
  • Slide Some Oil To Me
  • Ease On Down The Road #2
  • Mean Ole Lion
  • Ease On Down The Road #3
  • Be A Lion
  • Emerald City Ballet * ¶
  • Emerald City Sequence (Green/Red/Gold) ** ~
  • So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard *
  • What Would I Do If I Could Feel?
  • We Got It ***
  • No Bad News
  • Wonder Wonder Why **** ~
  • Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day
  • Who Do You Think You Are? * ¶ ~
  • Believe In Yourself ~
  • Y'All Got It! *
  • A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind * ¶ ~
  • Believe In Yourself (Reprise)
  • Home
* Not used in the film version
** Introduced in the film version
*** Introduced in The Wiz Live!
**** Introduced in the 1984 revival
¶ No commercial recording available with English vocals
~ Not featured in The Wiz Live!

In addition, there are no commercially available recordings of the instrumentals "Overture," "Entr'acte," "Funky Monkeys," "Promenade," and the final bows and exit music, aside from a CD release of karaoke tracks (featuring synthesized music) that included these as well.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Two Stories from Mother Goose in Prose

Jared selects two stories from L. Frank Baum's Mother Goose in Prose for Christmas: "What Jack Horner Did" and "Little Bun Rabbit."

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz

After Diana Ross filmed The Wiz in 1978, Motown (the label she was signed to) decided to hurry and get her to record covers of several of the movie's songs. They'd release it in January of 1979, and it would serve as a companion to the movie soundtrack, or make a nice single disc option for someone who might not want to buy the 2-disc soundtrack album, a piece of movie merchandise, and also another album for her fans.

Except, as we know, The Wiz movie was not the expected box office smash. And so, Motown decided to shelve the record... until now!!!

Except it's available only through digital music providers. You can get the 13 track album from iTunes, Amazon MP3 or wherever else you might get music digitally. You'd think there'd be enough demand from collective fans of Oz, The Wiz and Diana Ross to guarantee sales of a CD or even a vinyl. (Imagine if it was finally released on the format it'd originally been intended to be on!)

Seems all providers allow you to buy each of the tracks individually, or all of them in an album at a nice discount with a PDF of a booklet that explains the history of the album with some photos of Diana Ross that they say some of which have never been published before. ... Well, she doesn't look much like her Wiz appearance in them... I don't know much about Diana Ross outside of The Wiz, so I guess I don't have much more to say about that.

So, let's get to the tracks.

  1. The Feeling That We Had - I rather enjoyed Diana's take on this song. It's fairly simple, ever soulful, just as it should be. Almost makes me think she could have made a very effective Aunt Em at some point.
  2. He's The Wizard - Here Diana lets you know what you're in for as she begins to say some dialogue to briefly retell the story. I almost wish she hadn't as it gives the songs a crowded feel, but she sings the song quite well, trying a slightly different voice for "Miss One."
  3. Soon As I Get Home - Again, Diana quickly says some dialogue as she sings a more upbeat but uniformly slow version of the song. I like this version better than the movie soundtrack version. Diana also adds in a bit of dialogue during the song, saying, "Come on, Toto."
  4. Trio Medley - Diana sings through "You Can't Win," a very brief "Slide Some Oil To Me" and "Mean Ole Lion," with Diana shifting her voice slightly to bring to mind each of the characters. She seems to enjoy getting into these characters. As I said to a friend, "And now listening to Diana Ross as Michael Jackson."
  5. Ease On Down The Road - This take plays loosely with the music, but generally has Diana singing all three versions of the song as one version with three verses with some nice extra rhymes during a musical bridge. "Get up off your knees and sing! Me and my pals gonna do our thing! Come on, let's take it step by step! First your right, and then your left!" "Down the road is where it is, come on, we're gonna see the Wiz!" While some might understandably prefer her version with Michael Jackson, this is quite a nice version!
  6. Be A Lion - Like "The Feeling That We Had," Diana still gives a soulful rendition, just now minus additional vocals by Ted Ross. To make up for that, on the final "Be a lion!" she sings, "Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!" just before it.
  7. So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard - The looseness of some of these covers hits its high here as the music doesn't resemble the original song at all, and Diana cackles and nearly shrieks the lyrics and additional dialogue and rhymes. Andre DeShields, where are you?
  8. Is This What Feeling Gets? - This song was written for the film, and its theme is often heard through the film as it is subtitled "Dorothy's Theme." (Sam has noted that the final notes can be heard as we see Dorothy in an Emerald City hotel room after they first meet the Wiz. We needed to say that sometime...) This is a more confident take on the song and makes for a nice contrast with the soundtrack version. (Because it did make it to the soundtrack!)
  9. No Bad News - While I don't think she topped Mabel King, Diana's Evilene is a nasty bit of work and well-performed.
  10. Wonder Wonder Why - This was billed as a "bonus track" in some press announcements, suggesting that it wasn't originally intended for this album. This song was originally written for the original musical, but was cut before the Broadway debut. Later, it was reincorporated into a revival for Dorothy to sing as she cleans Evilene's castle. There's apparently rumors that it was recorded for the film, but was not included. (I couldn't imagine where it'd fit in.) This soft, simple take on the song marks its first commercial recording, and may likely be the first time many fans are hearing the song at all.
  11. Brand New Day - This version isn't as gripping as the movie soundtrack, but it's much shorter and is still a worthy cover. I just can't tell if Diana has backup singers or if they recorded her singing her own backup.
  12. Believe In Yourself - Diana proves a worthy Glinda in another fairly simple and respectful cover.
  13. Home - Again, another respectful cover, though Diana does add some nice, vocal flair.
So, overall, it's a nice album. For fans of The Wiz and Diana Ross, it's a must, though the more picky might want to pick a track or two. But I wish I wasn't at the point of recommending a digital-only album release...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Robin Olderman Spills The Beans!

Jared chats with long-time Oz fan Robin Olderman, who tells several stories of her adventures with Oz fans and some of her opinions.

You can listen, subscribe and download at the podcast site or use the player below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's Wrong with Who's Who

As anyone who has read Jack Snow’s Who’s Who in Oz knows, it is an invaluable reference work for fans of the Oz series. On the other hand, they probably also know that contains many errors, some very minor, and others that make me wonder whether Snow had actually read the books all that carefully. For the most part, I did not list errors that also occur in the books themselves, and I allowed Snow a certain amount of creative license as Royal Historian of Oz.

I really think the book could have used some more cross-referencing. Perhaps more people would look for information on Nick Chopper under “Tin Woodman” than under his proper name, but it might be nice if there were a “See TIN WOODMAN” reference under “Nick Chopper.” There are other cases where I question Snow’s decision as to whether to go with a name or a constantly-used description. To give an example, Scraps the Patchwork Girl and Bungle the Glass Cat are both introduced in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. They both have names, but Scraps’s name is mentioned much more often. In fact, I am fairly sure that The Magic of Oz, in which the Glass Cat has a major role, does not even mention her name. Nonetheless, Snow lists Bungle under her name, and Scraps under “Patchwork Girl.” Still, as long as Snow at least mentions a character’s real name, I do not regard it as an error. I DO point out instances in which a character is indexed under something that does not make much sense. The best example here is Irasha/Irashi being listed under “Rough Pasha,” which he is never called in the text of The Hungry Tiger of Oz. It's also strange when he lists some characters under their titles and others not, as with Captain Fyter and Colonel Crinkle (both under C) in contrast to Blug, Guph, and Mugwump (all generals, but not listed under G). And I'm not including characters Snow omitted entirely, many (but not all) of whom are addressed in Ruth Berman's appendix Who Else Is Who in Oz.

I will point out spelling errors, although I give a certain amount of leeway. I don’t think it matters that much whether Snow includes the hyphen in “Button-Bright.” Baum himself was inconsistent in whether or not Tik-Tok’s name should be hyphenated. On the other hand, since The Cowardly Lion of Oz makes it clear that “More” is Notta’s last name, spelling his name as “Notta-Bit-More” is definitely incorrect; and I did mention this error, as well as other similar ones. I'm using the 1988 Peter Bedrick edition of Who's Who. If any of these errors are absent in other editions, feel free to let me know.

Some errors appear more than once, so I begin this exploration of errors with a list of these.  

1. There is only one Octagon Isle. Snow seems to think there are eight. Thompson does switch between singular and plural for the Silver Island(s), but I'm pretty sure she always identifies the Octagon Isle as single.
2. Snow must have missed the end of Ozoplaning, in which Ozma turns Bustabo into a red squirrel. He seems to think Bustabo kept the throne of Red Top Mountain, and Azarine and her friends moved to the Emerald City.
3. Loonville is in the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.
4. Belfaygor is the Baron of Bourne, not of the entire Land of the Barons.
5. King Gos and Queen Cor drowned toward the end of Rinkitink. Snow persists on referring to them as if they are still alive and ruling.
6. Snow constantly refers to Skampavia as being near Ev. While this is accurate as far as it goes, it is much closer to Ix and Noland.
7. Nimmie Amee’s name is repeatedly misspelled.
8. The Comfortable Camel and Doubtful Dromedary are from Samandra; and Dorothy and Sir Hokus found them in the Winkie Country, not the Munchkin.
9. Snow often refers to rulers referred to “X the Nth” as the nth ruler of their respective countries. While not necessarily wrong, there is no reason to assume that there have not been other rulers with different names.
10. “Dicksy Land” is consistently misspelled as “Diksey Land.”
11. Snow refers to Marshland as “Mudland.”
12. The kangaroo from Emerald City is female.
13. While I have no problem with Snow “correcting” Thompson and Neill’s “Gnome” to the more Baumian “Nome” (I do much the same thing), he sometimes changes the title Gnome King to Nome King, which is confusing and inaccurate.
14. The Swynes’ children no longer live with them.
15. Snow has a habit of giving characters titles (usually “King” or “Prince”) that they do not have in the books in which they appear. Some of them can be considered artistic license, but others seem to be inappropriate or unnecessary.
16. The Duke of Dork lives on a castle-boat, not a “floating castle-island.”
17. Nadj of Norroway is a male king.


Abrog—Recurring error 15. Also, “King Peer”? Isn’t “Peer” already supposed to be a title?

Ato—Recurring errors 1 and 9

Azarine—Recurring error 2

Bal—Recurring error 3

Balloon Bird—Recurring errors 3 and 13

Bandmaster—Recurring error 13. His name, Oompah, is not mentioned. Oz probably does not have trolley cars.

Barber of Rash—The picture is of Jinnicky’s barber from Purple Prince. These two might be the same character, and, indeed, that would make for an interesting story. Thompson never even suggests the idea, though.

Belfaygor of Bourne—Recurring error 4

Bhookus—Recurring error 16

Bill—He landed in the Munchkin Country, not the Quadling.

Bini Aru—Whether he “invented” the magic word is not entirely clear. Baum just says he “discovered” it. That’s not necessarily an error, but it’s something that deserves a mention, I think.

Bob Up—Notta Bit More’s name should not be hyphenated.

Bookman—There is no reason to assume that he NEVER contains the information anyone wants. He just didn’t have any information on saving the Emerald City from Ruggedo.

Bud - His real name, Timothy, is not mentioned. Granted, it's never stated in an Oz book, but other characters are referred to by names they're only called in non-Oz books. Dolly is the most obvious example.

Bullfinch—Actually a BLUEfinch

Bustabo—Recurring error 2

Button Bright - Another character with a real name mentioned outside the Oz series proper (Saladin Paracelsus de Lambertine Evagne von Smith), and not given in his entry.

Buzzub—Recurring error 5

Cap’n Bill Wheedles—His last name is spelled “Weedles,” not “Wheedles.”

Captain of the Paper Soldiers - Not really an error, but his speech indicates that all of the paper dolls in his village have the last name Cuttenclip.

Chalk—Recurring error 6. The entry ignores that Chalk was instrumental in CONQUERING Oz before restoring it. He only undid what he and Skamperoo had done in the first place.

Chalulu—He only told Hoochafoo to “do nothing” because there was no way to interfere with Randy’s tasks. There’s no reason to assume that’s what he usually advises.

Chief Scarer—He’s the gatekeeper of Scare City, not the ruler. The people of Scare City are called Scares. Harum Scarum is the king’s name.

Chin Chilly - Snow claims, "Any humor [the Isa Posans] may have possessed at one time is now frozen stiff." Actually, Chin does make a pun in order to cheat Prince Tatters, so he has SOME sense of humor, but admittedly not a very good one.

Chinda—He’s the Grand Bozzywoz, not “Bozzywog.” Interestingly enough, the word “bozzywog” DOES appear in the Oz books (in Handy Mandy), but context implies that it means something quite different.

Choggenmugger—There’s no indication that he “grew back together again.” I suppose it’s possible, though.

Chopfyt—Recurring error 7

Christopher—The people of Crystal City are only cold when Ojo and his friends first encounter them because of the Snow Dwarf King’s curse. That’s not their natural state.

Colonel Crinkle—Minor mistake, but he’s promoted to General before being sent to the slicing machine.

Comfortable Camel—Recurring error 8. “Karwan Bashi” is a title, not a name. I believe it is a Persian term, which means, roughly, “caravan director.”

Coo-ee-oh—What evidence is there that a Krumbic Witch is “about seven times worse than an ordinary witch”?

Cooks of Doughmain—Lake Quad is in the central green area of Oz, not the Quadling Country.

Cor—Recurring error 5

Count-It-Up—Since “Count” is his title, his name shouldn’t be hyphenated. Cross Patch—Recurring error 9

Curious Cottabus—Since he’s not actually a cat, it’s somewhat unlikely that he’d be “first cousin” to other famous literary cats. Maybe it’s similar to how Ozga is “second cousin” to field flowers, though.

Dad—Fi Nance’s name shouldn’t be hyphenated.

Dear Deer—Recurring error 2

Dickus—Recurring errors 9 and 10

Didjaboo—Should be spelled “Didjabo”

Dicky Bird—Recurring error 10

Doctor Pipt—Why is he listed under “doctor”? Jack Pumpkinhead’s last name is misspelled “Pumpkinghead.”

Doubtful Dromedary—Recurring error 8

Dragonettes - The one who appears in Wonder City is most likely Evangeline, who is mentioned by name in the other Neill books.

Enorma—The indication given in Grampa is that the stream killed her, rather than simply making her “as meek and mild as a puppy.”

Fi-Nance—Her name shouldn’t be hyphenated.

Flub Blub—Recurring error 15

Fluff - According to Queen Zixi of Ix, her real name is Margaret.

Gardener—His title is misspelled “gardner” at one point.

Gaylette—Her name is actually “Gayelette.” It’s spelled correctly once in the entry, but incorrectly at another point, as well as in the heading.

Getsom and Gotsom—Recurring error 11

Ginger—He is a servant of Jinnicky, not Mogodore. Snow might be confusing him with Biggen and Little, who work for both Mogodore AND Jinnicky at different times.

Godorkas—Recurring error 16

Godown—Her kingdom is generally called Stair Way, not “Stairway Town.”

Good Witch of the North - Her entry ends with a statement that "Dorothy has said that some pretty important things have transpired involving the Good Witch of the North," and that it "would take a whole book" to describe them. While this could be a reference to Giant Horse, it's worth noting that Snow wrote a different entry for Tattypoo, implying that she wasn't the REAL GWN despite Thompson obviously thinking she was. I don't think it's ever been confirmed whether Snow was working on his own book about the GWN, but other authors have picked up on the idea of a GWN separate from Tattypoo. Not an error, just a curiosity.

Gos—Recurring error 5

Grandmother Gnit—Recurring error 12. Her people are Fuddles, not Fuddlecumjigs.

Great Dragon—His kingdom is beneath the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.

Hah Hoh—Actually, the other Kimbles DO laugh at his verses.

Handy Mandy—She ends up living in Keretaria, rather than at the Court of Ozma. Then again, other characters who don't officially live in the Emerald City are considered part of her court, including such notables as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman.

Hiergargo—It was the star that exploded, rather than Hiergargo himself.

High Coco-Lorum—Thi only APPEARS to “jump about the landscape.”

Himself—He is referred to in Handy Mandy as an elf, a dwarf, and a gnome; but never a leprechaun.

His Woodjesty - I have to suspect it would have been better to simply list him as "King of the Twigs," but it's not like this appellation is strictly wrong.

Hokus of Pokes—He is from Corumbia, not England. This is admittedly confusing, however, as Thompson indicated that he was from King Arthur's court before apparently changing her mind on this point in Yellow Knight. His first battle (against the Sultan of Samandra) was actually a victory for him. The Sultan cursed Hokus/Corum AFTER being defeated.

Hurrywurree—His name should be spelled “Hurreewurree.

Ianu—This character is a boy, not a girl.

Jack Pumpkinhead—He looks upon Ozma, not the Wizard, as a parent.

Jaguar—He encountered the Tin Woodman and his companions in the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.

Jam - His full name, Jonathan Andrew Manley, is not given here. It is, however, given in the entry for his mother, Mrs. Manley.

Jellia Jamb—She actually first appeared in Wizard. Granted, Baum never specifically says this, but it's strongly hinted, and Thompson confirms it in Ozoplaning.

Jinjur—She and her army were armed with knitting needles, not hatpins.

Jinnicky—He first appeared in Jack Pumpkinhead.

Joker—His entry should be later (after the “Joh” entries).

John Dough—He encountered the Fairy Beavers on the Isle of Mifkets, not the Isle of Phreex.

Kaliko—The Chief Steward in Ozma might actually be a different character, in which case Kaliko’s first appearance would have been in Emerald City. This is, admittedly, up for interpretation; and I prefer to think it IS Kaliko in Ozma.

Kangaroo—Recurring error 12 She is not the only kangaroo in Oz. Magic briefly mentions another kangaroo, named Tirrip.

Kerry - Probably a simple typo, but "Munchkinland" is spelled "Munchikinland."

King of Fix City—His name, Fix Sit (sometimes given as “Fix It”) is not mentioned.

King of Play—His name, Capers, is not mentioned.

King of Shuttertown—Shutter Town (the way Thompson spelled it) is in the Munchkin Country, not the Winkie.

Konk—Snow refers to him as “King Konk,” but “Konk” is a title, not a name.

Krewl—There’s no mention of his name being changed to Grewl. He actually becomes the gardener’s assistant, not the gardener.

Kuma Party - Recurring error 13

Kynd—His successor is Phearse, not “Phearce.”

Leopard—His name, Spots, is not mentioned.

Lonesome Duck—The text of Magic indicates that his diamond palace is in the Gillikin Country, although it's close to the Munchkin border.

Lucky Bucky - No mention of his last name, Jones.

Maltese Majesty - It seems incongruous that the King of the Twigs is listed as "HIS Woodjesty," and this character isn't "HER Maltese Majesty." Not a huge deal, though.

Marcia—Recurring error 11

Marygolden—While she’s a princess who lives in the Winkie Country, calling her “Princess of the Winkie Country” is a bit misleading. She was disenchanted by Speedy, not the Yellow Knight.

Mifkets—They really aren’t much like the Scoodlers, but blame Neill for confusing the two. The Mifkits of Scalawagons seem to be a combination of the Mifkets and the Scoodlers.

Mira—Recurring error 11

Mo-fi—This is his name, not the kind of animal he is.

Mugly—This character is described as “an ugly little Mugly,” but that doesn’t mean his NAME is “Mugly.” (I guess it COULD be, though.)

Nadj—Recurring error 17. He hasn’t personally been alive for three hundred years.

Nandywog—He’s only twenty feet tall, not twenty-four.

Nikobo—She’s very much female, not male.

Nimmie Aimee—Recurring error 7

Nome King—No mention of his transformation into a cactus

Octopuss—She lives at the bottom of Lake Quad, not on the Octagon Isle.

Omby Amby—He isn’t the same as the Guardian of the Gates. Snow makes the same mistake in his Oz books.

Orange Blossom—Her brother is King of the Golden Islands, rather than the Silver.

Ork—His name, Flipper, is not mentioned. Admittedly, it's only used once in Scarecrow.

Ozwog—His name is actually spelled “Ozwoz.” Since “Ozwog” wouldn’t fit here in alphabetical order, I’m assuming “Ozwog” is a typo.

Panta Loon—I don’t think there’s any indication that any of the Loons other than Bal can float away.

Peer Haps—Recurring error 15 Peg Amy—Sun Top Mountain is in the Winkie Country, not the Gillikin.

Peter—His last name, Brown, is not mentioned.

Peter Pun—His transformation was a result of the Sultan of Samandra’s magic, not his jokes. The Yellow Knight DOES have a sense of humor, and he makes several jokes in Royal Book (as Sir Hokus).

Pinny and Gig—They ended up settling in the Gillikin Country, not the Munchkin.

Planetty—She landed in Ix, not Ev.

Postman—Randy and Kabumpo encounter him in the Quadling Country, not the Gillikin. There’s no reason to assume that’s he the only postman in Oz.

Potaroo—Recurring error 13. An argument could be made that the character is first introduced in either Tik-Tok or Hungry Tiger.

Prime Piecer—“Scraps” is misspelled as “Scrapps.”

Prime Pumper—The fact that he no longer lives in Pumperdink isn’t mentioned.

Prince Perix—Recurring error 15. In fact, he’s even indexed under “Prince,” when Thompson never said he WAS a prince!

Princess of Monday Mountain—Her name, Pearl Borax, is not mentioned.

Private Files—His first name, Jo, is not mentioned in this entry.

Professor Grunter Swyne—Recurring error 14

Queen of Ev—Evrob’s name is misspelled “Evrok.”

Quiggeroc—He’s simply referred to as the Chief Digger in Lucky Bucky, rather than as a General. It’s not unlikely that he’s also the General in times of war, but Neill never explicitly states this.

Quink—“Quink” is a title, not a name.

Quox—The Original Dragon does not live in Oz.

Radj—Recurring error 17

Reachard—Recurring error 10

Realbad—His real name, Ree Alla Bad, isn’t mentioned. I'd say it's because Snow doesn’t want to spoil the plot of Ojo, but he apparently didn't mind including spoilers in the entries for the characters Isomere, Mooj, and Ojo.

Reera—There’s a reference to her being a “Yookoohoo Witch,” but Tin Woodman indicates that Yookoohoos and witches are different kinds of magic-workers.

Rosa Merry—The button boys distribute their wares to the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.

Rough Pasha—He is called “Irasha” and “Irashi,” and given the appellation “the Rough,” but is never actually called the “Rough Pasha” in Hungry Tiger. This wasn’t a good way to index him. Only one year passed in between Irasha’s stealing the throne and Evered’s regaining it.

Roundaboutys—Should be spelled “Round-Abouties.”

Sally—She naps in Captain Salt’s pipe, not Ato’s.

Santa Claus—“Knooks” is misspelled as “Nooks.”

Scissor Bird—His name is Nipper, not Ripper.

Sevananone—Recurring error 1. His fellow counselors are Sixentwo and Fourandfour (spelled “Four’nfour” in Captain Salt), not “Sixantwo” and “Fouranfour.”

Shagomar—Recurring error 2

Shampoozle—Recurring error 13

Shirley Sunshine—Recurring error 4

Sizzeroo—This is a very minor mistake, but he technically did leave his island when he parachuted down to the Emerald City.

Skally—Grampa and Tatters actually encountered the bandits in the Munchkin Country.

Skamperoo—Recurring error 6. He never actually watched Ozma rule Oz. For an in-universe explanation, perhaps the rather odd wording in the entries for Skamperoo and Chalk have to do with how so few Ozites remember his conquest, or an agreement with Skampavia not to go into too much detail.

Sky Terrier—Thompson actually spells this dog’s breed as “Skye Terrier.” Snow’s spelling makes the joke more explicit.

Slayrum—Realbad’s bandits actually became Winkie farmers, not Gillikin ones. I suppose they could have relocated, though.

Smirch - Recurring error 11

Smith and Tinker’s—I’m not sure why that apostrophe is in the heading. It’s an entry for the characters, not the firm.

Snorpus—There’s only one Silver Mountain, at least within Handy Mandy.

Snufferbux—His full name, Snufforious Buxorious Blundorious Boroso, is not mentioned.

Soothsayer—Why does Snow say he “misdirected” Kabumpo and Randy to Jinnicky’s castle? Jinnicky ends up solving their problem.

Speedy—His real name, William, is not mentioned.

Spezzle—He retired during Purple Prince.

Squealina Swyne—Recurring error 14

Starina—Why is this a separate entry at all?

Stork - This character is female in the text of Wizard.

Taka—Pirates reports that all of the Menankypoos (not “Menankypooians”) sank to the bottom of the Nonestic Ocean. Ozma then restored them to their kingdom.

Tattypoo—Snow suggests that she wasn’t the real Good Witch of the North. Could he have been thinking that there were TWO Good Witches of the North?

Terrybubble—Speedy is from Long Island, not Philadelphia.

Tighty - Shutter Town is once again said to be in the Winkie Country.

Tip - Snow goes out of his way to avoid revealing the twist ending to Land, which is fine, but it's weird when he doesn't seem to mind spoiling the plots of other books.

Tip Topper—Recurring error 15

Tip Topsy—Her last name is actually spelled “Toppsy.”

Toddledy—He lives in the Ozure Isles, not the “Azure Islands.”

Tom—His full name, Zebbediah Jones, is not mentioned. (And he’s one of Snow’s own characters, too.)

Torpy—He is not the Chief Wake.

Tottenhots—They live in the Winkie Country, not the Quadling.

Trot—Her real name, Mayre, is not mentioned.

Tsing Tsing—She is referred to in the present tense, even though she is dead.

Tubeskins—His name is actually Tubekins, which is correctly spelled in the entry itself, but not in the heading.

Twink—Her real name, Abbadiah Jones, is not mentioned.

Twobyfour—“Skampavia” is misspelled as “Scampavia.”

Uncle Bill Hugson—I certainly hope that “bother-in-law” was a typo!

Uncle Billy—His full name, William J. Harmstead, is not mentioned.

Unk Nunkie—His real name, Stephen, is not mentioned. Baum usually spells the character's name as "Unc," but the first chapter title of Patchwork Girl spells it "Unk" and later authors followed suit. So I'd say it's a mistaken spelling, but not really Snow's fault.

Vanetta - From what I can recall, she's referred to by name twice in Lost King, once as "Vanetta" and once as "Vanette." I'm glad Snow just stuck with one spelling, but you could make a case for the other.

Vinegar and Mustard—Rash is pink, not red.

Wam—“The only important magic” is a bit of a value judgment, but I would say bringing Crunch to life and planting the Travelers’ Tree were also important. He was first mentioned in Cowardly Lion.

Wantowin—Kind of a superfluous entry, since the character is already mentioned as Omby Amby. His last name, Battles, is not mentioned.

Wilby—His last name, Whut, is not mentioned.

Wizard of Oz—His balloon probably did not actually land in the central green country, since the Wicked Witch of the West drove him out of the Winkie Country.

X. Pando—His name should not be hyphenated. Yoop, Mrs.—She is a Yookoohoo, not a “Kookoohoo.”

Zixi—She presumably has not lived for quite “thousands of years” (she is 683 during Queen Zixi of Ix), but this is a mistake the Wizard also made in Road.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Wiz 101

Jared hosts a discussion with David Maxine and Garrett Kilgore about the origins of the Tony Award-winning musical, The Wiz! Plus, trepidation about the new NBC live production...

Listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and link below.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Many Different Ways Of Reading Oz

A different take on Dorothy by Tumblr user
. But is it wrong?
In my blog about accepting The Wiz as a version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I included this bit: of fiction may be interpreted by different people, who may often read things into them based on their own life experience. The character of Dorothy is an audience surrogate, so if a young African-American girl connects through that character, then the author's job is still done.
When a work is released, in a way, the way it is perceived passes from what the creator(s) intended to how the audiences interpret it. In the case of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, however, Baum made his intentions of the story clear in his introduction:
...the story of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written solely to pleasure children of today.
 Yet that hasn't stopped people from claiming they've found Baum's allegorical meaning or agenda behind the story. Most popular is the concept that Baum meant for his story to be a parable on Populism, but what many forget is that this is an interpretation, not intent. As we've yet to find extensive allegory in any of Baum's other works, I take Baum at his word that he wrote it to be an enjoyable story. Yes, there are storytelling themes and tropes in the Oz books, but I find it difficult to believe.

Just so we're clear, intent is what the creator meant to include in the story, while interpretation is what the audience takes away from it, and they can be very different things!

Tip and Ozma by xamag
Take for example the story of Ozma in The Marvelous Land of Oz. Transgender people have seen Ozma as a transgender character. However, not everyone sees it this way. It's highly likely that Baum didn't intend it. "It was magic, not the way she was born," some say. But yet the concept of being raised as one gender and then being restored to your true gender is enough for trans people to relate to. Thus, I'd say both views are valid, one going from authorial intent, the other going from what people take away from the story.

That brings us to another point. Sometimes people come across stories and find a character and realize they relate to it or see something in the character the creator did not intend. They believe that character is a lot like them. And sometimes, there's no evidence to suggest otherwise, and sometimes there is. But even if it's not what the author intended, people should not be denied the freedom to interpret this character as they wish.

Literature is not a static thing. As screenwriter Phillipa Boyens calls it, it is "organic," and it keeps growing, and by allowing people to interpret and reinterpret it, it can grow and continue. And while it might be interpreted in ways the original creator never thought of, that doesn't make it wrong.
Glinda, Ozma, Dorothy, the Good Witch of the North,
and the Wicked Witches of the West and East by
Tumblr user zetsubonna

Monday, November 16, 2015

How is the Wiz okay?

Two new videos promoting The Wiz Live! have come up...

 And also the release date of the soundtrack CD has been announced as December 18.

And also, a previously unreleased Diana Ross album titled Diana Ross Sings Songs from The Wiz will be released through digital music platforms on November 27. This album was recorded to be released the year after the film version, but was cancelled after its poor reception. It features Ross singing The Wiz songs as herself, giving it her all instead of depicting her introverted, shy Dorothy. Also included on the album is Ross singing "Wonder Wonder Why," a cut Wiz song (from the play, and perhaps also the movie, but later inserted into a 1984 revival of the play) which has never had a recording of it been released before. (Hopefully the Wiz Live! soundtrack includes "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind," the other two songs that haven't had recordings released.)

That said, another thing about The Wiz has cropped up. Across several videos about the new NBC production, commenters have posted incredulous comments about the possibilities of a "black Wizard of Oz." (I guess they've missed the play and movie until now...) These range from nasty comments about expecting broken English and "ghetto talk" to calling the production appropriating white culture.

Oz and racism have had a bit of a past. L. Frank Baum was born and raised in a society where the general holding of people of color as second class citizens went unchecked. There were a few radical people with the notion that people of color deserved every bit as respect as white people, and these included Baum's own mother in law Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was even named a member of the Iroquois Council of Matrons.

While Matilda did have some palpable influence on Baum, unfortunately, Baum's writing reveals some elements that haven't aged well when he handles people of color or suggestions of them. Most troublesome are some articles he wrote about the Sioux nation, but that's been handled elsewhere. In Baum's fiction, people of color appear with their dialogue spelled phonetically and a clear mention of their ethnicity or skin color, and some such characters have the "n-word" applied to them. Baum is rarely malicious to them in his fiction, but these are still troubling to people who enjoy his work but also try to recognize social issues and attempt to raise awareness of them in hopes of fixing them.

In the Oz books, Baum never gives us any idea that the majority of people in Oz or the people who go there are anything but Caucasian and Anglo-Saxon. However, in his handling of non-human characters, Baum establishes Oz as a place where people of all types are welcome to live peacefully together. Even the less than flattering Tottenhots have a reasonable request of being left alone and in return leaving others alone. Thus, many of Baum's progressive readers hope that if Baum was a little more aware of social issues as we see them today, he'd be willing to evolve on them.

So, what about The Wiz, which in its original forms on stage and film had an entirely black cast? Is it appropriating something that belongs to white people?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a work of fiction written by a white man. However, works of fiction may be interpreted by different people, who may often read things into them based on their own life experience. The character of Dorothy is an audience surrogate, so if a young African-American girl connects through that character, then the author's job is still done.

The Wiz takes that scenario a bit further by reinterpreting the entire story and all the characters through a vernacular of African-American culture from the 1970s. And yet, it was not disrespectful to the source. To really "appropriate" the story, the creators of The Wiz would have claimed the story as their own and not credited Baum at all. This is not the case as the original play, the film, and now NBC's new production all credit Baum as having written the original source material. (In contrast, note how many other Oz spinoffs exist that don't credit Baum at all.) I could go further about race relations, but that would begin to get quite off the topic of The Wiz.

Basically, when a work is released, it is not just to be enjoyed by one type of person, but for all, and one part of enjoyment is retelling. The Wiz is another culture's way of retelling a beloved story, and the original play—which NBC appears to be adapting more closely than the film version—is a wonderful example of how well it can work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Even more Wiz!

I didn't mean to blog about The Wiz Live next, but this video has come up, showing Shanice Williams rehearsing the song "Home" with some coaching from the one and only Stephanie Mills.

I'm already loving Shanice as Dorothy and look forward to The Wiz Live on December 3.

 photo Wiz Live.png

Oh, and the pre-order for the DVD is up!

Universal contacted Sam and despite our writing in, the recording will not be offered on Blu-Ray. Digital HD versions should be available for sale sometime after the broadcast.

There is also no preorder up yet for a cast recording CD or digital album. This doesn't mean it's not coming, and unless there are contract issues, there should be no reason why it can't happen.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Wiz Live is coming!

It's one month to the day until NBC airs their live production of The Wiz! And promotion is ramping up!

They have clarified a few things about the songs: "You Can't Win" will be sung by the Scarecrow, and we're presuming that this means they are not also doing "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday." (I'd love to be wrong, because I'd enjoy a new version of that song.) In addition, there is a new song written for this version to close Act 1. (Or since it's going to be televised, right after the four friends see the Wiz.)

It's not the first time a new song has been added to The Wiz. Of course, before opening the show on Broadway, songs were in and out of the show all the time, but in the show's 1984 revival, a new song called "Wonder, Wonder Why" was added for Dorothy to sing while enslaved in Evilene's castle. (No word on if they're using that. Probably not.)

There's a new, very colorful promo that's been airing.

If you can't wait for December 3rd, the cast will be performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and there will be a "Making Of The Wiz Live" special airing November 25, 8PM ET.

If you need more The Wiz now, we got some more right here, thanks to Angelo Thomas for rounding up a lot of news!

Today Show Interview
Sirius XM cast interview
People Magazine exclusive photos
The Wiz Live!: Meet the Cast (audio and video podcast, DRM free, HD)

And if you're wanting EVEN MORE of The Wiz, check out this amazing tribute to the original production if you haven't seen it yet. (Or watch it again!)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ozbusters! What makes a Witch?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the existence of witches is quickly established as Dorothy discovers she killed a Wicked Witch with her house and finds herself greeted by a self-identified Good Witch. Later, Dorothy is sent to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West, and in the final act of the story, undertakes a journey to find another Good Witch, Glinda.

Except, in later books, Glinda is not called a witch, but a sorceress.

"Well," fans might think, "they're just different terms for women who use magic, right?"

Well... Maybe not.

I was going to tackle this topic in an Oz story, but have decided to skip it and just tell a story.

In one of the notes in The Annotated Wizard of Oz, Michael Patrick Hearn points out that witches traditionally work for Satan, while sorceresses work for themselves. However, while Baum states in Wonderful Wizard that there is a power of Good and a power of Evil in his fantasy world, it does not appear he intended there to be a Devil.

The way Evil (or wickedness) comes about in Baum's world is that people "do not try to be good," or rather, as I've observed, that villains follow their selfish, self-serving goals rather than goals that will actually help people. That is what makes Wicked Witches different from any Good Witches. Good Witches work for the good of their people or the entire Land of Oz.

Okay, but what's the difference between witches and sorceresses?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we have two witches who use magic that we as the reader observe: the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West. We are only told they work magic or use a little chant before they turn their hat into a slate or make a bar of iron invisible. Nowhere are we told that they use tools, herbs, or extensive magic words to work their magic. Thus, it seems they actually have magic power.

In contrast is Glinda. A fun fact check is that nowhere in the first four Oz books does Glinda work magic. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, she uses magic tools, but these items are already magical and would presumably work for anyone who knew how to use them. She gives advice on how to use magic devices in Wizard and Ozma of Oz, but is absent in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. In The Road to Oz, we are told she makes a tree grow and bear fruit in a very short time, then makes it disappear. Baum does not tell us if she used tools or just made it happen. A similar case is in The Emerald City of Oz when she reveals she's created an invisible barrier around Oz, but we are not told how she accomplished this. Once again in Tik-Tok of Oz, we are told Glinda performs a "magical ceremony," but what this consists of, we have no idea.

The biggest revelations about Glinda's way of working magic happen in The Lost Princess of Oz and Glinda of Oz. When Ugu steals Glinda's magic tools, she is unable to work magic. Furthermore, she must use tools to try to save Dorothy and Ozma in the latter book. Thus, it seems, Glinda does not have magic power of her own, but she knows how to use magic tools and magic words to accomplish great feats.

I must also point out that Baum says that Mombi is only a sorceress (or "wizardess") in The Marvelous Land of Oz. However, he later states that she was the Wicked Witch of the North in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. This must mean that magic power can be stripped from a witch, presumably turning them into an otherwise harmless woman. (Mombi, we must assume, has learned every bit of magic she could find, so even without magic power, she's still capable of quite a lot.)

So, how do Witches get magic power? According to many old legends, they sacrifice youth and beauty for their wicked arts. I came up with another concept: they can turn in their names for magic power, which is why the Wicked Witches disposed of in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had no names. (As far as Baum's writing is concerned.) The thing is, it's a bit more than becoming a nameless person. Giving up your name is beginning to give up your identity, and in the Wicked Witches' cases, their main concerns were becoming more powerful and holding dominion over their people.

So wait, what about the Good Witch of the North? According to Thompson, she is Queen Orin who Mombi had tried to transform into a Wicked Witch, but since Good is greater than Evil, Orin could not be turned into a Wicked Witch, and so became a Good Witch.

But as I'm not a fan of the Good Witch of the North being disposed of, I've come up with another suggestion, in that rather than sacrificing youth, beauty or identity, the Good Witch of the North was given her powers as a reward for previous selfless acts and tasked to help protect the people of Oz from her base in the Gillikin Country. She is not a fairy, but not a sorceress as she doesn't use tools, so the term "Witch" is closest to what she is, so she took it, identifying as a good witch. (The Good Witch of the North will be making a return in a short story I've written, keep your eyes open.)

Glinda is often mistakenly called a Good Witch, although she's actually just a sorceress, but she's not particular as long as people remember she's Good and on their side.

So, why do Mombi and Singra (the Wicked Witch of the South in Rachel Cosgrove Payes' The Wicked Witch of Oz) have their names? Perhaps these are aliases or they recognized the danger of losing their identities and decided not to go that far.

The King Rinkitink Contest!

Ahoy there, everyone! This is my first blog post here, and I'd like to extend an invitation out there to all you creative types. The Oz Club is hosting a contest for those interested to submit an alternate ending to L. Frank Baum's 10th Oz Book: Rinkitink in Oz. As you may know, Baum originally wrote King Rinkitink around the time he wrote Ozma of Oz... shelved it, and then pulled it out to fill in for an Oz book by rewriting his original ending to include Dorothy and the Wizard in a deus ex machina role.

Would Kaliko really have behaved in such a manner as the Nome King acted in the book? Certainly not!How would Inga and Rinkitink have escaped from Roquat? (Yes, we're dealing with Roquat, or Ruggedo if you wish, and not Kaliko.) Baum surely wrote something quite ingenious, and it's up to us to figure out what it was.

Entries will be published in the 2016 issue of Oziana, and the winning entry will be published in book form in a joint venture between the Oz Club and Oz published Pumpernickel Pickle.

Put your thinking caps on and get creative! Contact me at if you have any questions!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ozbusters! Why did publishers turn down Oz?

When you hear of how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published, you hear the claim that publishers were not interested in the book or didn't want to publish it. Many point to L. Frank Baum's text, claiming that there had been nothing like it. The movie The Dreamer of Oz even has a publisher reject "an American fairy tale" and then has Baum go into a rage over it.

However, I'm not sold on that.

L. Frank Baum had his name on a top-selling children's book from the previous year: Father Goose: His Book. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a good story, somewhere between Alice in Wonderland and Pilgrim's Progress. So, why would people reject it?

My thought is... they didn't reject the text.

What people tend to forget or not understand is that Baum and W.W. Denslow worked on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz together and split the copyright on it. Baum didn't just write a book then got someone to illustrate or let the publisher get someone to do it. That means the book's design was how both author and illustrator decided the book should look.

The book would be more costly to print than if it was just the text or the text and simple line art or even inserted plates. The book included color printing on the same pages as the text, creating artwork that would surround and be under the text. Today, this would be no problem to print because we can easily do that with today's imaging and printing technologies, but in 1900, this would mean that the pages would have to be printed twice: once with the color ink, and then again with the black ink for line art and text. This special tooling would increase the cost of publishing. In addition to this, you had the two-dozen color plates.

Thus, it wasn't the text, but the whole package of the design and illustrations with the text that had been turned down. And it wasn't until Baum and Denslow helped fund the production of the book that the publisher of Father Goose: His Book (who had previously had to be sold on that lavish picture book) decided to publish The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Does that make a little more sense than the book being flat-out rejected due to the text? I think so. You'll find that there were lots of books published during that period of time, because this was a major form of sharing stories. But not all of them stayed in print. Our trend of having books that may be enjoyable but aren't very good available alongside our major, memorable works has been going ever since publishing books became a business model, well over a century.

Baum and Denslow wanted something that would stand out, not something that would disappear after a few years, but in order to do that, this book would require extra care in its packaging, something that not everyone was willing to gamble on.

What do you think? Do you agree that the book was rejected by publishers because of how they wanted to publish it rather than just because of the story? Or do you think no, it was just the story? Or do you have another thought? Post your responses and theories in the comments. And what other topics that we might have the wrong idea about should be on Ozbusters?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Movies of Oz: DiC's Wizard of Oz

Jared and Sam are joined by Garrett Kilgore in a very informative discussion of DiC's short-lived animated series based on MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

Download this episode (right click and save)

You can subscribe to podcast at the podcast site.