Celebrating the Emerald City: 75 years of Dorothy

I was stunned to find out recently that this week has seen the 75th birthday of the Wizard of Oz. It’s one of those movies we’ve all watched. It’s hard to believe we first walked down the yellow brick road in 1939 with Dorothy and her friends. Based on the book by Frank Baum, it is one of the most loved movies of the twentieth century. So in recognition of this amazing milestone, here’s a look at the journey this story has made and a few of the Oz-themed spin-offs we’ve seen over the years.

1. The Book

It all started with a book. It always saddens me to discover how few people have actually read the book (or worse, don’t even know it was a book in the first place). Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is definitely a must-read for any book enthusiast.

2. The Movie (The Wizard of Oz)

Of course, the iconic movie in which we saw young Judy (aged 16) and Toto whisked away to the magical land of Oz to embark on a musical journey to the Emerald City to meet the mystical wizard. From it we gained some of the most well known melodies in musical cinema, as well as some memorable lines.

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

[youtube http://youtu.be/vQLNS3HWfCM]

3. The Music

One of the best loved songs from the movie, Somewhere Over The Rainbow has become iconic in itself. Almost cut from the movie due to long running times, it went on to win the Best Song Oscar and became the Judy Garland song. It has since been covered by many artists, including Katherine McPhee, Pink and Jane Monheit (below). Other songs we’ve since seen redone include If I Only Had a Brain (most recently by Robbie Williams).

[youtube http://youtu.be/PSZxmZmBfnU]

[youtube http://youtu.be/-cawSHMzoU8]

[youtube http://youtu.be/EP_5veYs1vE]

[youtube http://youtu.be/0GpyBU2DVkE]

3. Wicked (the book)

Having read this book, in some ways it doesn’t fit into this list and in others it does. Maguire does write in the Oz world created by Baum and he tells the story of Elphaba, the misunderstood green witch. It is not an easy book to read. Anyone expecting to read the same light hearted fun story from the stage show will be sadly disappointed. That is not to say it isn’t a brilliant book. But it is a statement book. It is a political, social and ethical commentary that is very definitely not for children. Interesting fact, Maguire fashioned the name Elphaba from Baum’s initials L-F-B. Still, it is the platform from which much of the modern adaptations have sprung.

4. The Stage Show – The Wiz

The Wizard of Oz has walked the boards many times, most recently in a surprisingly short musical version by Webber and Rice, treading the boards in 2011 and then closing again a year later. It used much of the music from the film plus new tracks from the amazing Webber and Rice,so its short run came as a little bit of a shock.

5. Wicked the Musical

Perhaps the most famous spin-off in modern times, the amazingly popular stage show tells the story of Glinda and Elphaba through their school days and how they became the characters we know in the 1939 movie. Funny, witty and incredibly catchy, it is an impossible-to-not-love musical that has caught the imaginations of audiences around the globe. The lead parts have been played most famously by Kristin Chenoweth (Glee) and Idina Menzel (Frozen, Glee, Enchanted) but have also seen other famous faces like Kerri Ellis (WWRY, Wicked in Rock) and Meghan Hilty (Smash, 9-5) as well as Joey Grey (Cabaret) as the Wizard in the original cast.

[youtube http://youtu.be/3g4ekwTd6Ig]

6. Once Upon a Time

ABC’s latest juggernaut pays homage to Baum’s work. The TV series, based on the idea of  fairytale characters who have been cursed to live in the real world, takes a visit to Oz in its third season and I’m sure it won’t be the last we see of the Emerald City.

8. Oz: The Great and Powerful

The latest adaptation starring Mila Kunis, James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz is the most modern version of this old story to make it to the silver screen. This lavish spectacle forms the prequel to the original and tells of the wizards arrival in the world of Oz.

 7. Wicked the Movie

Showing our love for this old tale is far from waning, the next big project is the adaptation of the wickedly (sorry, too tempting) successful stage show into a movie. Details are still sketchy. It is known that neither Chenoweth nor Menzel will be reprising their roles as both have been informed they are ‘above age’ for the roles. It will be interesting to see who will attempt to fit into either of their rather impressive shoes.