No doubt bolstered by the success of its now-perennial Christmas Carol, Madison Square Garden's huge theatre (formerly called "The Paramount") will present another musical. Co-produced by NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse, The Wizard Of Oz is scheduled to open May 7.
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. 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").
This production is not connected to the Walnut Street Theatre mounting of Wizard Of Oz which followed Paper Mill's staging. (Like the Paper Mill mounting, though, the December 1995 Walnut version featured Kelli Rabke as Dorothy.)
Beginning/opening May 7 for 48 performances through June 1, the MSG 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 Johanson, who staged the piece at his home theatre. James Rocco choreographs, Paper Mill resident designer Michael Anania will do the set, Gregg Barnes will design the costumes, and Tim Hunter will create the show's lighting.
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..." There are tentative plans for an official Garden press conference on the show for Thursday afternoon, Jan. 30.
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.
--By David Lefkowitz