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.

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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!)