The Wizard of Oz (1987 musical)

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The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz 1987 musical poster.jpg
Poster from the original 1987 RSC production
Music Harold Arlen; Herbert Stothart
Lyrics E.Y. Harburg
Book John Kane
Basis L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and 1939 film The Wizard of Oz .
Productions1987 Barbican Centre (North London)
1989 The Wizard of Oz Live! Arena Show
1991–92 Australia tour
1993 U.S. Tour
1997 Madison Square Garden
2001–02 Australia tour
2008 US Tour
2017 US Tour

The Wizard of Oz is a musical with a book by John Kane, music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. It has additional background music by Herbert Stothart. [1] It is based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 film version written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf.


Successful musicals based on the Baum novel were created in 1902 (for Broadway) and 1942 (for St. Louis Municipal Opera), the latter of which, using songs from the popular 1939 film, is still frequently revived. Seeking to more closely recreate the 1939 film on stage, the Royal Shakespeare Company adapted the film's screenplay, also using the songs from the film, and produced a new version at London's Barbican Centre in 1987. This was also a success and has been given many revivals in various formats. This musical has been touring the U.S. since 2008. It has become a popular musical for community theatres, schools and children's theatres in the United States and the United Kingdom.


The Wizard of Oz was first turned into a musical extravaganza by L. Frank Baum himself. A loose adaptation of Baum's 1900 novel (there is no Wicked Witch or Toto, and there are some new characters), it first played in Chicago in 1902 and was a success on Broadway the following year. It then toured for seven years. [2] The 1939 film adaptation bore a closer resemblance to the storyline of Baum's original novel than most previous versions. It was a strong success, won the Academy Awards for best song and best score, and has been frequently broadcast on television. This was followed, in 1942, by a musical theatre adaptation presented at the St. Louis Municipal Opera (MUNY). [3] The script was adapted by Frank Gabrielson from the novel, but it is influenced in some respects by the motion picture script and uses most of the songs from the film. A new song was added for Dorothy to sing in the Emerald City, called "Evening Star", and the Wizard goes home in a rocketship instead of a hot air balloon. The MUNY version continues to receive frequent revivals. [4]

According to Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) director Ian Judge, the company's 1987 adaptation "came about when Terry Hands, artistic director of the company, asked for a show that could be performed annually over the Christmas season, as a revival of J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan had been previously. ... Judge obtained the rights to the [1939] film. ... An additional verse has been put back into the Academy Award-winning song 'Over the Rainbow,' as well as an entire number, 'The Jitterbug,' that was cut from the movie. Every word of the screenplay has been left in. 'We've just fattened it out a little bit because you need a few more words in the theater than you need in the movies.'" [5] In 1986, John Kane was asked by the company to write the book for the adaptation. [6] This hews even more closely to the film's screenplay than the 1942 MUNY version and attempts to recreate the film's atmosphere and some of its special effects. [4]


Act 1

A young girl, Dorothy Gale, lives on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and little dog, Toto. Feeling unappreciated, she dreams of a far away place ("Over the Rainbow"). Miss Gulch, their unpleasant neighbor, serves Dorothy with a summons to take Toto away. He escapes from her bicycle basket, and Dorothy runs away from home with him. On the road, they find a showman, Professor Marvel, who urges her to return to the farm. Dorothy arrives home just as a tornado touches down. She and Toto are locked out of the storm cellar. In her house, she is accidentally hit on the head by a window.

The house is carried by the tornado to the Land of Oz. Dorothy meets the Munchkins and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (who resembles Aunt Em). Her house has fallen upon, and killed, the Wicked Witch of the East. This frees the Munchkins from her power, and they treat Dorothy as their heroine ("Come Out, Come Out"; "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead"). The Wicked Witch of the West (who resembles Miss Gulch) arrives to claim her sister's magic ruby slippers and vows to avenge her death. Glinda has already put the slippers on Dorothy's feet, further infuriating the witch. Dorothy wants to go home to Kansas. The Munchkins tell her that the Wizard of Oz will know what to do ("Follow the Yellow Brick Road"). She starts off towards the Emerald City.

Dorothy and Toto meet three strange traveling companions, each of whom needs help: The Scarecrow's head is full of straw ("If I Only Had a Brain"). The rusty Tin Man's chest is empty ("If I Only Had a Heart") and the Cowardly Lion is afraid of his own tail ("If I Only Had the Nerve"). Dorothy invites them all to join her to see if the Wizard can help them ("We're Off to See the Wizard"). The Wicked Witch of the West threatens them along the way but fails to intimidate Dorothy into giving up the ruby slippers. She creates a beautiful field of poppies, but their scent is poisonous. Glinda rescues the travelers by covering the poppies with snowflakes ("Optimistic Voices"). They then finally reach the Emerald City.

Act 2

The Emerald City's Gatekeeper tries to discourage the travelers, but they are persistent and gain entry ("The Merry Old Land of Oz"). They are washed, combed and buffed, but the Wizard refuses to meet them. The Wicked Witch makes another ominous appearance, and the Lion wishes more than ever for courage ("If I Were King of the Forest"). Finally taken to see the fearsome Wizard, the four friends are given a quest to prove themselves worthy of his assistance: they must bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West, and the only way to do that would be to kill her.

The friends leave in fear and haste for the land of the Winkies (whom the Wicked Witch has enslaved and forced to serve in her army) and her castle ("March of the Winkies"). In a haunted forest, the jitterbugs make the travelers dance until they all collapse from exhaustion ("The Jitterbug"). The Wicked Witch's winged monkeys then attack, swooping away with Dorothy and Toto. The witch still does not have the power to take the ruby slippers off of Dorothy's feet ("Over the Rainbow" (reprise)). Toto manages to escape and help the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion to find her. They disguise themselves in Winkie uniforms and sneak into the castle. They find her, but the Wicked Witch foils their escape. She attacks the Scarecrow with fire, and Dorothy throws a bucket of water at him, accidentally dousing the witch, causing her to melt into nothing ("Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (reprise)). The friends take her broom back to the Emerald City.

The Wizard is again reluctant to meet Dorothy and friends. Toto pulls aside the curtain behind which the Wizard is revealed as an ordinary man (who resembles Professor Marvel) using a microphone to make his voice impressive. Nevertheless, he is able to help the travelers. He conducts a graduation exercise, awarding the Scarecrow a doctorate of Thinkology, appoints the Lion as a member of the Legion of Courage, and presents the Tin Man with a heart-shaped ticker – a watch. Finally, he reveals that he is from the prairies himself and offers to give Dorothy a ride back to Kansas in the hot-air balloon that brought him to Oz. It takes off while she is distracted, and she is afraid that she missed her chance to go home, but Glinda arrives. She says that Dorothy has the power all along to transport herself and Toto by clicking her heels together three times and repeating "There's no place like home".

Dorothy wakes up in Kansas with a bump on her head. The tornado has passed. Miss Gulch broke her leg when the storm blew down a telegraph pole – she won't be riding her bicycle any time soon. Dorothy is overjoyed to see her family and friends, whom she appreciates more than ever.

Musical numbers


In the Tams-Witmark Music Library licensed version, "The Jitterbug" occurs between "March of the Winkies" and "March of the Winkies" (reprise). "Over the Rainbow" (reprise) occurs after "March of the Winkies" (reprise).


1987 Original London production

The RSC based its costumes on a combination of the book's original artwork and the style of the then-popular musical The Wiz . The original cast featured Imelda Staunton as Dorothy Gale; Bille Brown (in drag) as Miss Gulch/the Wicked Witch of the West; Dilys Laye and later Joyce Grant as Aunt Em/Glinda, the Good Witch of the North; and Trevor Peacock as Zeke/the Cowardly Lion and Sebastian Shaw as The Wizard of Oz/Professor Marvel. When the same production was reproduced in 1988, Gillian Bevan played Dorothy. The production was an immediate success in London when it opened at London's Barbican Theatre. The Times reviewer wrote: "This is, to come out with it immediately, the most marvellous show." [7]

The RSC revived the show the following season, again with Gillian Bevan as Dorothy, and recorded a cast album of the show. The staging has been repeated frequently by musical theatre companies in the United Kingdom.

1988 United States premiere

The RSC version's first outing in the U.S. was in 1988 in a production starring Cathy Rigby as Dorothy (she had made her musical debut in the role in a 1981 MUNY revival) and Lara Teeter as the Scarecrow. [4] This was presented by the Long Beach Civic Light Opera (Long Beach, California) from July 14 to July 31, 1988. [8] [9]

1989 The Wizard of Oz Live! Arena Show

In 1989, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the film, the RSC script and score were adapted into an arena-style touring production in the U.S. According to USA Today, the show was "Built to play about 70 stadiums across the country, the $5 million production opened Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall." [10] The production, with many dramatic and, according to critics, ill-advised design features, was not well received and had a short run, closing quietly in 1990. [4]

1990s productions

1991–1992 Australian tour

The RSC production had its Australian premiere at the State Theatre, Melbourne in January to February 1991. [11] The production played in December 1991 in Brisbane [12] and January to February 1992 in Adelaide. [13] The cast included Tamsin West as Dorothy, Cameron Daddo as Hunk/Scarecrow (replaced by Brain Rooney in Brisbane and Adelaide [14] ), David Whitney as Hickory/The Tinman, Pamela Rabe as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch and John Gaden as Professor Marvel/The Wizard (replaced by Bert Newton in Brisbane and Adelaide [15] ). [11]

1992 Paper Mill Playhouse

In 1992, the Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey, produced the Royal Shakespeare Company's version. Eddie Bracken was featured as a Guard and the Wizard. [6] The New York Times review noted that "Robert Johanson and James Rocco, sharing credit for direction and choreography, are attempting to relive the movie with up-to-the-minute stage effects. Ergo. Comes the cyclone, the cow flies. The farmhouse zooms over the first rows and lands back on stage, in the manner of the Phantom's crashing chandelier. Dorothy is suspended, Peter Pan-like, on high wires. All manner of creeping, crawling creatures augment the ascending ones; monkeys levitate, spookily; everyone, it appears, sooner or later, ascends, over and over." [16]

1993 U.S. tour

The RSC version was used in the first U.S. stage touring production based on the film, beginning in 1993. The Boston Herald reported that the show was "complete with all the beloved songs by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg. It's well-acted and extremely well-sung by a cast that draws on the movie classic's indelible characterizations of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, etc." [17]

1995 The Wizard of Oz on Ice

This Kenneth Feld production toured from 1995 to 1999. The ice show followed "the familiar story largely intact from the 1939 MGM film" and was choreographed by Robin Cousins. [18] It featured a pre-recorded soundtrack with the voices of Laurena Wilkerson as Dorothy and Bobby McFerrin as all of the other characters (including the female characters). The costumes and some staging concepts did not follow the MGM movie: The Witch "flew", while Glinda "skated" her initial arrivals and exits onstage. [4] The production toured nationally and internationally. [19]

A television adaptation of the production, featuring Oksana Baiul as Dorothy and Victor Petrenko as the Scarecrow, was telecast in 1996. [20]

1995 The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True

This version used the RSC version and was filmed for television by the TNT Network with an all star cast, including newcomer Jewel as Dorothy and Joel Grey as the Wizard. Jackson Browne, Roger Daltrey and Nathan Lane played the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, respectively. Debra Winger was the Wicked Witch. A cast album was made that includes more of the music from the show than the 1989 RSC recording as well as some dialogue. [4]

1997 Madison Square Garden production

The Madison Square Garden, New York production opened in May 1997 for 48 performances. Co-produced by the Paper Mill Playhouse, it used a shorter version of the show, 90 minutes long, and score designed for younger audiences. Directed by Paper Mill artistic director Robert Johanson, the cast included Roseanne Barr as the Wicked Witch of the West and Ken Page, Lara Teeter and Michael Gruber as the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. [21] [22]

This production was repeated in May 1998 at Madison Square Garden. It featured Mickey Rooney as the Wizard and Eartha Kitt as the Wicked Witch of the West. She was later replaced by Jo Anne Worley. Most of the 1997 cast returned, and it was this cast that made the cast recording associated with this version. [23] [24] This engagement was part of a US tour that ended in 1999. [25]


2001 Australia

From November 2001 to February 2002, a production directed by Nancye Hayes was staged at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney, Australia. [26] [27] The cast included pop-star Nikki Webster as Dorothy, Delia Hannah as Aunt Em/Glinda, Kane Alexander as Hunk/Scarecrow, Doug Parkinson as Zeke/Cowardly Lion, Pamela Rabe as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch, and Bert Newton as Professor Marvel/The Wizard. [27] The following year, the production transferred to the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, [28] and then to the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane, where Patti Newton (the wife of Bert Newton) and Derek Metzger, respectively, played Aunt Em/Glinda and Hunk/Scarecrow. [29]

2008 and 2017 U.S. tours

A touring production of the show ran in cities across the U.S. from October 2008 to January 2012. [30] [31]

Another touring production began running across the U.S. in October 2017. It features new scenic design, costumes & choreography. [32]

See also


  1. "Wizard of Oz (R.S.C. 1988)". Tams–Witmark Music Library. 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  2. Swartz, p. 146
  3. "The Wizard of Oz (MUNY Version)". Tams–Witmark Music Library. 2005. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Raymond, Kurt. "We're off to Stage the Wizard of Oz". Beyond the Rainbow to Oz website. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
  5. Wolf, Matt. "Toto Meets the Bard", The Associated Press, December 14, 1987 (no page number)
  6. 1 2 Swartz, p. 257
  7. Kingston, Jeremy. "Spirited trip down yellow brick road / Review of 'The Wizard of Oz' at the Barbican", The Times , December 18, 1987 (no page number)
  8. "Listing, Orange Coast Magazine". Orange Coast Magazine (, July 1988
  9. O'Connor, Thomas. "Cathy Rigby pops over the rainbow in a stage version of the Arlen-Harburg musical offered by Long Beach Civic Light Opera starting next weekend", "Footlights", The Orange County Register, July 10, 1988, p. J17
  10. Stearns, David Patrick. "The wizardry behind taking 'Oz' on tour", USA Today , March 24, 1989, p. 4D
  11. 1 2 "The Wizard of Oz – The Musical" (Melbourne 1991), AusStage, accessed June 4, 2018
  12. "The Wizard of Oz – The Musical" (Brisbane 1991), AusStage, accessed June 4, 2018
  13. "The Wizard of Oz – The Musical" (Adelaide), AusStage, accessed June 4, 2018
  15. Plant, Simon. "Bert is the word: 20 years on stage for showbiz legend Bert Newton", Herald Sun , December 12, 2013, accessed June 4, 2018
  16. Klein, Alvin. "Wizard of Oz' Has High Wires and Flying Cows". The New York Times, September 20, 1992, p. 10 (New Jersey Weekly Desk)
  17. Katz, Larry. "Centrum's 'Oz' is a delight for whole family", The Boston Herald , December 30, 1993, p. 34
  18. Flocken, Corinne. "Rinkmaster Has 'Wizard of Oz on Ice' Down Cold". Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1996
  19. The Wizard of Oz on Ice., retrieved December 24, 2010
  20. "'The Wizard of Oz On Ice'". Internet Movie database listing, retrieved December 9, 2010
  21. Lefkowitz, David. "Wizard of Oz Musical Set for Madison Square Garden"., January 24, 1997
  22. Marks, Peter. "Pushing the Speed Limit On the Yellow-Brick Road". The New York Times, May 16, 1997
  23. 1998 tour. Off2seethewizard, retrieved December 24, 2010
  24. Van Gelder, Lawrence. "Theatre Review: Back Down the Yellow Brick Road". The New York Times, May 7, 1998
  25. Viagas, Robert and Lefkowitz, David. "Mickey Rooney/Eartha Kitt Oz Opens in NY, May 6"., May 6, 1998
  26. Thomson, Helen. "Old and young troupers bring fresh wizardry to Oz", The Age , July 1, 2002, accessed June 4, 2018
  27. 1 2 The Wizard of Oz (Sydney), AusStage, accessed June 4, 2018
  28. The Wizard of Oz (Melbourne 2002), AusStage, accessed June 4, 2018
  29. "The Wizard of Oz" (Brisbane 2002), AusStage, accessed June 4, 2018
  30. Official tour
  31. Pressley, Nelson. "This Oz Needs More Click to Its Heels", The Washington Post , December 4, 2008
  32. Duckett, Jodi. "Theater: A colorful production of Wizard of Oz lands at Easton's State Theatre", The Morning Call , January 17, 2018; and Firestone, Greer. "BWW Previews: Wizard of Oz opens at The Playhouse Nov 14",, November 1, 2017

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