Despite her appearance on the June 1 Tony Awards, Roseanne reportedly has been suffering from a flu that has kept her out of several performances of The Wizard Of Oz at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York this week and last. As confirmed by Beth Hergenhan of Madison Square Garden Productions, Roseanne began the May 31 evening show but had to leave following her early scenes. Then on June 1, she managed a few scenes in the matinee but stopped to go home and rest up for her appearance on the Tony Awards.
On doctor's orders, Roseanne missed performances June 3-4 but is expected to return June 5, and play for the rest of the run, through June 8. Danielle Lee Greaves has served as Roseanne's understudy. Judy McCauley, who plays Auntie Em and Glinda The Good Witch, missed the entire May 25-June 1 week due to the flu.
With Oz revenues already reaching $5 million, the producers are planning a U.S. mini-tour this fall, with a return to Madison Square Garden at this time in 1998.
The 90-minute musical Wizard began previews May 7 and opened May 12. It uses the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg score from the 1939 film musical.
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Grove (pronounced gro-VAY) of Columbus, OH, plays Dorothy. She was chosen from 300 hopefuls at an open casting call. Grove' has already played Dorothy -- at Columbus Junior Theatre -- and is currently starring in Yours, Anne at Columbus College's Canvani Center. Ken Page, who played the Cowardly Lion in the original Broadway production of The Wiz, gets to play the same role (with different songs, naturally) in this production. Page also originated Old Deuteronomy in Cats and embodied Fats Waller in Ain't Misbehavin'.
Michael Gruber, a current cat in Cats, will be the heart-less Tinman, while Lara Teeter, a Tony nominee for On Your Toes, will be the Scarecrow. Roseanne, of course, came to fame as the wisecracking "domestic goddess," whose Emmy-winning, self-titled TV show is in its last season.
Gerry Vichi (who played Wally Womper in the recent How To Succeed Broadway revival), will play the Wizard. Judith McCauley, a veteran of NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse, will play both Glinda the Good Witch and Aunt Em.
The Paper Mill/MSG staging is adapted by John Kane from the film screenplay, maintaining the score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. ("Yip") Harburg ("Somewhere Over The Rainbow," "If I Only Had A Brain"). The Witch has no songs in the piece, but, as performed by Margaret Hamilton in the film, the role made a memorable impact.
The MSG theatre, bolstered by the success of its now-perennial Christmas Carol, said it is hoping to build Oz into an annual event.
Roseanne has received a Best Actress Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards for her TV series, which ended its run in May,
Based on the Oz books by Frank Baum, Wizard Of Oz is best known for its 1939 Judy Garland film incarnation and its adaptation into the Stephanie Mills starrer, The Wiz.
Wizard will run 90 minutes, a bit shorter than the Paper Mill version. The show has not yet been cast but will be directed by Paper Mill artistic director Robert Johansen, who staged the piece at his home theatre.
Paper Mill spokesperson Dennis Dougherty told Playbill On-Line the producers are hoping this Wizard Of Oz will be an annual production, like MSG's Christmas Carol. "They're taking a new design and a new approach to the show because of the possibilities of Madison Square Garden. I mean, the tornado at Paper Mill was done with lighting, strobes, and they flew a miniature house across the stage. Who knows what they can do at the Garden..."
In other MSG theatre news, Walter Bobbie has been signed to direct a stage version of Footloose, based on the hit 1984 film starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Lori Singer and Kevin Bacon. Dan Schoenberg, the Garden's director of publicity, had no further information on the show (e.g., casting, adaptation team) but did say the goal is to open the show spring or summer 1998 and then take it on tour -- much as they're doing with Oz.
For tickets ($19-$54) and information on The Wizard Of Oz, call (212) 307-4111.
--By David Lefkowitz