In May 2003, I stepped into The Curran Theater in San Francisco and entered the magical land of Oz for the third time in my life.
My first visit to Oz was the annual television viewing of the 1939 film, starring Judy Garland, based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by
L. Frank Baum. It is difficult to describe, in that 1970s world before VCRs, DVD, TiVo, cable or on-demand, how much this special Sunday evening once a year meant to me.
It was a festive night of buttered popcorn, candy and fantasy. I will never forget the thrill I felt when Dorothy, after landing her house on the witch, steps out into a Technicolor Oz. Truly thrilling.
My second and more literary trip to Oz took place in 1995 when I discovered a just published and unknown book titled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, written by Gregory Maguire. This alternative telling of the story, not authorized by the Baum’s trust, challenged the reader to open their mind to another point of view and to question intent and motivation in the political, economic and societal telling of the story.
I am to this day intrigued with and partial to this piece of work. Throughout that year of discovery, I gifted the book to any and everyone, held a book group and discussion and mused about the impact the book would have on the post-Baum generation.
My third, but I hope not final, trip to Oz is Wicked The Musical, based on Gregory Maguire’s book, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz – like myself – had discovered the book while on vacation. And he set about a successful campaign to gain the rights to the story and to create and mount the musical.
From the first moment Idina Menzel (“Elphaba”) and Kristen Chenoweth (“Glinda”) took the stage and stretched their remarkable voices, I was a devotee. I have enjoyed the stage spectacle with its heartbreaking, seat-dancing and belt-it-out along music with a generation and half of children. I have since that first evening, kept the original cast CD in my car and have it as standard on my playlist.
So, with the magical season upon us, revisit the classic, Wonderful Wizard of Oz or any of the 13 original Oz books. And be sure to buy a ticket (yes, again!) to the musical and dive into the magical land of Oz.