02 February 2010

1903 Stage Wizard of Oz to be Restaged

Jane Albright sends news that the Canton Comic Opera Company of Canton, Ohio (not China), will offer two performances of material from the The Wizard of Oz, the blockbuster stage extravaganza from just over a century ago. The company’s website explains:

While entirely forgotten today, the 1903 THE WIZARD OF OZ was one of the most successful musical comedies of the turn of the century and firmly cemented the timeless story and characters in the hearts and minds of the American public, 37 years before the widely known MGM film.

THE WIZARD OF OZ opened on Broadway in 1903 and ran for a total of 464 performances. The original cast starred the comedy team of Fred Stone as the Scarecrow and David Montgomery as the Tin-Woodsman. THE WIZARD OF OZ toured the country for seven seasons following its Broadway run, stopping at Canton’s Grand Opera House on October 27, 1904, May 1, 1905, April 24, 1906, and August 28, 1908.
Back then, the songs in musical plays were only slightly related to the plot or characters, and producers supplied their audiences with novelty by adding new numbers and taking out old as a show toured. Thus, over seventy songs were part of this Wizard’s score between its Chicago tryouts in 1902 and its petering out around 1909. Some of those songs L. Frank Baum himself had a hand in. Some became hits. Some were based entirely on offensive ethnic stereotypes.

The Canton Comic Opera Company has broken that sprawling score into two parts. On Friday, 9 July, there will be a free concert and lecture featuring songs that went the show after its premiere and Larry Moore, a historian of the American musical theater.

The following evening, 10 July, the company will perform a fully staged production of the show, with the script and songs as close to what arrived on Broadway in 1903 as scholars can tell. And on that evening seats will cost actual money—but only $20 for grown-ups, $10 for kids.

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