All the World is A[n Ozzy!) Stage…


[Above:  The cover of the souvenir program for the Berlin Metropol-Theater production of DER ZAUBERER VON OSS stage musical, which premiered there on September 26, 1992.]


Of the nearly ninety blogs thus far in this series, one of the more popular in terms of reader response was that for March 17th, 2017, which talked about a few of the many foreign editions/translations of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books. (Several of these volumes tied-in with -- or had at least been spurred on by -- the ongoing world-wide popularity of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer THE WIZARD OF OZ motion picture.) The enthusiasm generated by the blog last spring was pretty much manifested by serious collectors, who appreciated the unique and colorful cover art for those books that accompanied and illustrated the text.

I was reminded of their reactions a few weeks ago when visitors to Wamego during OZtoberFest this year frequently stopped to comment on the number of foreign-language Oz books on display in one of the glass cases in The OZ Museum. Compounding that recollection, a good friend in Australia emailed earlier this week to observe that the 2011 Andrew Lloyd-Webber revision of THE WIZARD OF OZ stage musical was currently due “Down Under”; at the same time, someone else wrote to request specifics about another WIZARD OF OZ production, presently on tour here in the United States.

The latter appears to be the latest incarnation of the original 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of the MGM movie script, songs, and background music, which has been successfully mounted around the world for the past three decades. The Lloyd-Webber variation of that show, with some additional, original songs and a much-revamped script, was launched in London six years ago and then proceeded to Canada before a U.S. debut in 2013. (It -- perhaps deservedly -- vanished soon thereafter; anyway, my personal reaction to what had been wrought by his rewrites and interpolations appeared in the blog of November 14, 2014!)

However, there’s no denying the continuing emotional and commercial appeal of a Baum/MGM OZ composite on an international level. That realization led to the idea of sharing here some additional, collectible proof in the form of “foreign” artwork, drawn from the souvenir program and designs for a lavish stage production of the Royal Shakespeare version of the MGM movie. This incarnation – in German translation -- was presented at the Metropol-Theater in Berlin and opened just twenty-five years ago this autumn on September 26, 1992. Here’s hoping it proves of interest to the ever-growing number of Oz fans, archivists, entertainment buffs, and/or historians!



Above:  Costume sketches and character design concepts for the Berlin production, DER ZAUBERER VON OSS. Presented here, at left, are Dorothy and Toto; farmhand Hunk and his Oz alternate, the “Farmarbeiter Vogelscheuche” (aka the Scarecrow); one of the combative apple trees; and one of the sassy crows. (Multiple incarnations of both the tree and the bird served to tease and sing during the show, per the RSC adaptation of the film.) At right: farmhands Hickory and Zeke with their alter-egos, Farmarbeiter Blechmann (the Tin Man) and Farmarbeiter Lowe (the Lion)…plus what appears to be a Munchkin and a couple of diverse Emerald Citizens.


Above:  At left, Miss Almira Gulch and her psychological dream manifestation, Die bose Hexe des Westens; a poppy girl, a Winged Monkey, and what may be Winkie Guards. (Would anyone care to attempt the German translation of “O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!”?)  At right: Onkel Henry, who doubled in the cast as Hofmeister des Zauberers (a loose translation of which leads one to suspect the equivalent of the Guardian of the Gate) and Der Zauberer himself; Tante Em, who also appeared as Glinda, die gute Hexe des Nordens; plus other citizens of Oz. It’s possible that the sheepish bald man in black is meant to represent the eventually unmasked humbug himself.

Certainly, production designer Manfred Bitterlich warrants credit for both fulfilling audience expectations and bringing his own imaginative, stage-worthy, and stage-workable spin to the familiar citizens and denizens of Oz! Additionally, it worth pondering just how many of those who participated in or viewed the Metropol-Theater DER ZAUBERER VON OSS retain vivid memories of such color and creativity…even a quarter of a century later.


Article by John Fricke


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