Wizard of Oz Sees New Life on Stage and on Screen

News   Wizard of Oz Sees New Life on Stage and on Screen Depending on how you look at it, come this December the touring stage production of The Wizard of Oz will be receiving some support or some competition from the classic 1939 film version. Warner Brothers has announced it will re-release the film in movie theatres on Christmas Day, according to Variety. The stage tour, which played in May at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden and stars Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt, is currently ensconced at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, and will be playing in Vancouver, Canada, at Christmastime.

Depending on how you look at it, come this December the touring stage production of The Wizard of Oz will be receiving some support or some competition from the classic 1939 film version. Warner Brothers has announced it will re-release the film in movie theatres on Christmas Day, according to Variety. The stage tour, which played in May at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden and stars Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt, is currently ensconced at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, and will be playing in Vancouver, Canada, at Christmastime.

Tour officials think the film's resurfacing is all to the good. "We've been following Warner Brothers on this very closely," said MSG spokeman Geoff Cohen. "We expect we'll be working with them on some cross-promotion." Cohen could not say what form that cross-promotion would take, but he said Warner Brothers was planning a whole line a "Oz" merchandise, including dolls and clothing.

With Oz, Rooney, of Sugar Babies renown, made his first NY stage appearance since a featured role in The Will Rogers Follies (1993). Rooney is best known for his film work in Babes in Arms, National Velvet, Boys Town, and the Andy Hardy film series, opposite Judy Garland. Garland, of course, starred as Dorothy in the film classic on which this stage version is based.

As for co-star Kitt, she made her Broadway debut in New Faces of 1952, before which she was a Katherine Dunham dancer. She later played the cat Mehitabel in the musical Shinbone Alley, based on the "archy and mehitabel" [sic] stories. She has since become a fixture in the cabaret world.

The musical uses the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg score from the 1939 film classic. MSG's 1997 production, which starred Roseanne as the Wicked Witch, grossed more than $5 million. The Paper Mill Playhouse/MSG staging was adapted by John Kane from the screenplay, maintaining the score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. ("Yip") Harburg ("Somewhere Over The Rainbow," "If I Only Had A Brain"). In the Oz film and in last year's Roseanne incarnation, the Witch had no songs in the piece. Kitt now sings "The Jitterbug," a song cut from the film. Also, introductory verses cut from "Over The Rainbow" and "If I Only Had a Brain" have been reinstated for the stage version.

The MSG theatre, bolstered by the success of its now-perennial Christmas Carol, has said it hopes to build Oz into an annual event.

Following are the current tour dates for The Wizard of Oz: July 2 - Aug. 2: San Francisco, Orpheum Theater
Aug. 6-16: Calgary, Canada, Jubilee Auditorium
Aug. 20 - Sept. 6: Columbus, OH, Palace Theatre
Sept. 10-27: Tampa, Performing Arts Center
Oct. 1-18: Orlando, Bob Carr Performing Arts Center
Oct. 22-Nov. 8: Atlanta, Civic Center
Nov. 12-29: Phoenix, Gammage Center
Dec. 3, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999, Vancouver, Ford Center
Jan. 7-24: Minneapolis, Orpheum Theatre
Jan. 28 - Feb. 7: Boston, Wang Center
Feb. 11-28: Cleveland, Playhouse Square: Allen Theatre


-- By Robert Viagas
and David Lefkowitz and Robert Simonson

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