Following a fall "hiatus" of canceled dates, the national tour of The Wizard of Oz, produced by Madison Square Garden Productions, will restart down the yellow brick road -- minus Eartha Kitt as the vampish Wicked Witch -- Dec. 26 at Philadelphia's Forrest Theatre.
Nov. 5, publicist Cathy Del Priore of MSG Productions confirmed that Kitt and actor Lara Teeter (as the Scarecrow) chose not to resume their roles from the tour earlier this year. Del Priore confirmed bookings in Philadelphia (Dec. 26-Jan. 10, 1999), in Minneapolis at the Orpheum Theatre (Jan. 15-24, 1999) and the Wang Center in Boston (Jan. 28-Feb. 7, 1999) and said bookings announced on the official Oz web site ( www.ozontour.com) are reliable: Cleveland's Allen Theatre (Feb. 17-28, 1999), Rosemont, IL.'s Rosemont Theatre (March 18-28, 1999), Detroit's Fox Theatre (March 31-April 11, 1999), Wallingford CT.'s Oakdale Theatre (April 26-May 2, 1999).
Casting of the Wicked Witch and Scarecrow roles would be known within a few weeks, Del Priore said. The Witch role would not be filled by a star, she said, but would include a number called "The Jitterbug," sung by Kitt but not by Roseanne, who originated the role at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in May 1997. "The Jitterbug" was cut from the 1939 MGM film on which the staging is based.
The 1998 tour began in March in Rosemont, IL., and starred Mickey Rooney as the Wizard, Kitt, Teeter, Ken Page (The Cowardly Lion), Dirk Lumbard (Tin Man) and Jessica Grove (Dorothy). It returned to The Theater at Madison Square Garden last spring.
The 1998-99 Lion will be Francis Ruivivar, a veteran of Miss Saigon. Coincidentally, a "special edition" of the 1939 film, "The Wizard of Oz," will be re-released in 1,800 movie theatres Nov. 6. The movie's sound and Technicolor image have been digitally remastered. Millions of moviegoers only know the film from its screenings on CBS or on home video.
The classic MGM movie, which is now owned by Warner Bros., is the inspiration for the national touring production, which is directed by Robert Johanson (who staged the 1992 Paper Mill Playhouse production which inspired the current show).
The stage show is a 90-minute trim of the 1 hour-41-minute musical movie, and includes some song verses cut from the movie. The score is by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Harold Arlen.
The tour's last leg ended Sept. 27 at the Tampa Center for the Performing Arts. Previously announced and now scuttled dates were Sept. 28-Oct. 10 (Orlando, FL.), Oct. 12-25 (Camden, NJ.), Oct. 26-Nov. 8 (Atlanta, GA.), Nov. 9-29 (Tempe, AZ.). No reason was given for the cancellations.
-- By Kenneth Jones