20 November 2013

The “Wizard of Ahhhs” and the Man Behind the Curtain

Here’s another latter-day remake of the MGM Wizard of Oz. Called “The Wizard of Ahhhs,” it features the vocal group Pentatonix, from TV’s music-contest show The Sing-Off, and actor-director Todrick Hall, who was a finalist of some sort on American Idol. (A hat tip to Betsy Bird at the Fuse for alerting me to this video.)

Pentatonix is an a cappella group consisting of five vocalists, one offering beats. Their early interviews make a big deal of not using an Autotuner, but the songs for this video really sound like computers are involved. Kirstie Maldonado is the only female member of the group, so she plays not only Dorothy but also, with camera moves and a body double, Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West. Director Hall plays the Wizard in a striking, Wiz-like interpretation.

This video uses only one song from the MGM movie—the iconic “Over the Rainbow,” of course—and drops in a whole bunch of recent pop songs for the rest of the score. Here’s the full list of songs from Aaron Coney. The recording is available through iTunes.

As far as the storytelling goes, the video’s so short that it’s designed to evoke our emotional memories of the MGM original without bothering to have a coherent story. Of course, the same strategy worked for Oz the Great and Powerful.

Starting as a teenager, Hall has been working on his own Oz: The Musical and staging it with young casts. The collapse of one touring production in 2010 brought some complaints from young performers’ parents who had invested in the show. In 2011 Hall turned to Kickstarter, and there are impressive videos of that production, but it has also produced complaints about unfufilled promises. It sounds like he has lots of ideas and talent but needs a John Houseman to manage his Orson Welles.

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