Paying tribute to the classic 1939 film, a touring production of “The Wizard of Oz” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 17 and 18 at the IU Auditorium.
The production follows Dorothy’s attempts to find her way home to Kansas when a tornado blows her tiny house to the magical Land of Oz. Locals there tell her only the mysterious Wizard of Oz can help her return home.
Along the way, Dorothy, accompanied by her dog Toto, befriends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, who themselves wish for Oz to give them a brain, a heart and courage, respectively. As they travel the “yellow brick road” to find Oz, the Good Witch of the North aids them to combat the Evil Witch of West.
Prather Entertainment Group's touring production, which runs from October 2017 to May 2018, is based off John Kane’s adaptation of the film for the Royal Shakespeare Company, according to an IU Auditorium Press Release.
Christopher Russell, who plays the Tin Man, said the show contains the 1939 film’s classic songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, such as the Academy-Award-winning, “Over the Rainbow,” as well as “Jitterbug.” The song takes place when Dorothy and her friends are traveling to the Wicked Witch’s castle.
Russell said the song’s revival in this production is one of its highlights.
Additionally, "The Wizard of Oz" is presented in conjunction with IU Auditorium's annual "Kids' Night on Broadway." The event will program family activities in the lobby preceding each show night, according to an IU Auditorium press release.
Russell said the show was dance-heavy and contains nods to sly British humor.
As an example, Russel said after Tin Man’s song, Dorothy asks why him why he doesn’t go back to the tinsmith and get him to make a new heart.
“The Tin Man says ‘Oh no, he went out of business a long time ago,’” Russel said. “He turns to the scarecrow and they say, ‘Ran out of tin.’”
In the production, Toto is played by a real dog named Murphy.
“We love him, and he travels on the tour bus with us and he gives us all love,” Russel said.
Russel said it was quite an honor stepping into a role played by Jack Haley in the film. However, he says, he also tried to bring his own personal touch to the role.
“I loved Jack Haley, but the Tin Man was never somebody that I really identified with in the movies as much as, say, Dorothy or the Lion or even Scarecrow," Russel said. "I kind of wanted to bring him a little bit out of the background.”
The story itself is based off Frank L. Baum’s children’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which was part of a vast series of "Oz" books.
In 1939, Metro Goldwyn Mayer produced an Academy Award-winning film musical adaptation of the book starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Frank Morgen and Billie Burke.
Other adaptations of the story include “The Wiz,” a late 1970s musical with an all-black cast, and “Wicked,” a blockbuster prequel that still runs on Broadway.
The 1939 film was not the first musical version of Baum's story. A musical comedy, with a book by Baum and and music by Pail Tiejens and Alfred Baldwin Sloane premiered on Broadway's Majestic Theatre on January 21, 1903, and ran for over 290 performances, making it the longest show of the decade. After the Broadway production closed, it toured America until 1911.
Doug Booher, executive director of the IU Auditorium, encouraged audiences to see the production and celebrate the musical.
“Whether it’s someone’s first or fifth time, seeing The Wizard of Oz always proves to be a cheerful adventure down that iconic yellow brick road,” Booher said.