Sept 5, 2014 ‘Tis The Month!
‘Tis the month!
OZTOBERFEST 2014 is upon us, and just three weeks from tonight and tomorrow, the town of Wamego – and, specifically, its remarkable Oz Museum -- will become the center of the Ozzy Universe. As the Wizard himself might have proclaimed from a perch in his balloon basket: “It's a joyous and jolly weekend of Extraordinary Entertainment! Amazing Anecdotes! Vibrant Videos! Magical Music! And Costumed Camaraderie!”
Given that, the only thing a resident of “the land of E Pluribus Unum” might gleefully add is the fact that visitors of all ages will be dazzled by literally thousands of Oz items on beautiful display: toys, games, dolls, products, photographs, records, original movie material -- and books dating back to L. Frank Baum's first "discovery" of Dorothy and all her friends on the Yellow Brick Road in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900).
Anyone who can do subtraction will tell you that this provides OZTOBERFEST participants with the fantastic opportunity to view over one-hundred-and-thirteen years of miraculous material. But there’s more – much more -- to it than that, and in this and next week's blog, you’ll read about the special guests of OZTOBERFEST 2014, some of the forthcoming highlights of their programming, and just what they have to offer in the way of singular and exciting attractions during Saturday’s activities.
Of course, in this 75th anniversary year, there’ll be celebrations of THE WIZARD OF OZ itself, the now-beyond-classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture. Attendees will see rare footage of “Dorothy” and “The Scarecrow” -- Judy Garland and Ray Bolger -- as adults, reminiscing about the making of the movie. Paul Miles Schneider, who not only met "Wicked Witch" Margaret Hamilton as a boy but had her as his second grade pen-pal (!), will recount their association and share video moments from her career. I’ll be talking about my own meetings with Miss Hamilton in New York City and at several earlier Oz events – and how I had the additional privilege of both seeing Judy Garland in concert three times and meeting and speaking with her after one of those performances when I was a teenager.
In a separate presentation, Paul Miles will discuss his own highly-acclaimed new novels, SILVER SHOES and THE POWDER OF LIFE, in which a Midwestern sixth grader and his friends discover the alchemy and reality of Oz in the twentieth-first century. The official Oz series concluded in 1963, after forty different volumes by seven different authors. Paul Miles Schneider’s stories are among the very best of many additional adventures written since then, and his prose packs a potent mixture of mystery, drama, humor, and fantasy for cross-generational readers. SILVER SHOES and THE POWDER OF LIFE are the perfect conduit for anyone to return, wondrously, to the magic of Oz – and to the magic of books.
Thanks to the generosity of television, radio, and print media personality, Ryan Jay (of RyanJayReviews.com), Wamego audiences also will see his exclusive, “on the red carpet” premiere footage of last spring’s colorful, animated treat for youngsters, LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN. Ryan is a nationally syndicated radio commentator and NBC-TV affiliate cinema critic, and his OZ coverage includes interviews with many of the stars of that production, as well as its behind-the-camera creative forces.
All of that makes this the ideal time to mention that LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN is newly-available on DVD with glorious extras, including mini-documentaries about the music and legacy of Oz; a sing-a-long feature; a LEGENDS activity sheet; and the theatrical trailer. Then – of course – there’s the charming and engaging feature itself. Somewhat unfairly, OZ was dismissed by many critics when it played theaters earlier this year; they seemed inclined to discuss what the picture wasn’t, as opposed to reviewing it, on its own terms, for what it unquestionably is. While the script and songs aren’t laced with the overall wit or musical comedy class of the earlier M-G-M picture, there’s no question that LEGENDS is (very successfully) geared toward younger spectators. If you have children or grandchildren, I think it’s safe to say they will be totally enraptured by this new journey with Dorothy & Company, while adults can quietly, amusedly revel in the vocal talents brought to both beloved and new characters by such film, television, and Broadway multi-talents as Lea Michele (Dorothy), Martin Short (the evil Jester), Dan Aykroyd (the Scarecrow), Kelsey Grammer (the Tin Woodman), James Belushi (the Cowardly Lion), Bernadette Peters (Glinda), Megan Hilty (the China Princess), Hugh Dancy (Marshal Mallow), Patrick Stewart (“Tugg,” the living boat), and Oliver Platt (the Owl). Of course, one also finds Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, the Winged Monkeys – and Toto, too!
One important, additional fact about LEGENDS OF OZ – in direct opposition to some of its critical dismissals: The actual, opening weekend audiences (who were polled as they left theaters by the CinemaScore research/tabulator concerns) gave the film an overwhelming “A” rating average. As noted, it’s a rainbow-hued, winning and Ozzily-thrilling saga for youngsters – and, by extension and talent, a lovely indulgence for adults as well. Adapted from the original narrative, DOROTHY OF OZ by L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson Roger S. Baum, LEGENDS bespeaks a happy heritage – and longevity.
At any rate, you’ll encounter all of this -- and more! -- at OZTOBERFEST 2014 on September 26th and 27th in Wamego, Kansas, as we salute the M-G-M WIZARD OF OZ and its cast! Oz books! LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN!...and the eternally festive spirit of Frank Baum’s incomparable creation. Be sure to look elsewhere on this site for details about Friday’s special benefit event, “A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM,” where the costumed Oz characters will come to life; where major hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be served; where the venue itself will be open for private inspection; and where local pianist Kally McConkey and I will salute the M-G-M stars with a selection of classic show tunes they introduced in other vehicles.
[Facebook followers will definitely enjoy the Museum’s presence there, as well, with its mélange of OZTOBERFEST news and other Ozian tidbits and enthusiasms: https://www.facebook.com/ozmuseum?ref_type=bookmark]
None of this would be possible, of course, without the Oz Museum itself as a focal and meeting point. And in next week’s blog, we’ll continue to anticipate OZTOBERFEST 2014 with a profile of another of this year’s special guests: the man whose generosity and collection (and decades of earlier collecting by his family) makes possible the Museum’s immeasurably rich holdings!
Article by John Fricke