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BWW 10th Anniversary! The Legacy & Lore Of THE WIZARD OF OZ

Tonight, in honor of BroadwayWorld's hotly anticipated 10th anniversary concert taking place at legendary NYC cabaret venue Joe's Pub, we are looking at some particularly fascinating facts and figures from the long and legendary legacy of L. Frank Baum's THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ and the many books, films, musicals, songs, television shows and more that have been inspired by it over the decades.

For more information on BroadwayWorld's 10th anniversary concert and to watch the show yourself live later tonight, go here.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Author L. Frank Baum grew up near Syracuse, New York - in the outskirts town of Rose Lawn - which is also where BroadwayWorld's founder and owner, Rob Diamond, attended college - at Syracuse University. Of note, director Richard Jay-Alexander also was raised in this area of upstate New York. It's a magical land!

L. Frank Baum actually suffered from a childhood heart condition - a veritable living Tin Man - thus, "If I only had a heart."

The first copy of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was published on May 17, 1900. By 1938, a million copies were in print. By 1956, 3 million copies. Today, clearly, it is ubiquitous.

In the original THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, the Wicked Witch utilized not only flying monkeys to thwart Dorothy and friends, but also 40 vicious wolves, 40 black crows, swarms of killer bees and her ever-reliable fleet of so-called "winkie" soldiers. She was even wickeder than the movie presents!

Time is on our side - today is actually the 111th anniversary of the original stage production of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Yesterday marked the 72nd birthday of Michael Crawford, who portrayed the Wizard in the 2011 West End production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new stage adaptation THE WIZARD OF OZ.

In the original THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, the Wizard actually provides Dorothy and her friends with their requested items - sort of: the Scarecrow receives a bundle of pins, needles and bran as a new brain; the Tin Man is gifted a silk heart stuffed with sawdust; and the Lion gets a faux magic potion intended to provide courage. What a gyp - times three!

There have been many OZ impersonators over the decades - perhaps most notably (and first), the intriguingly-titled Eva Katherine Gibson's ZAUBERLINDA, THE WISE WITCH, among others.

Among the admitted influences and inspirations Baum took to craft THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ - the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm, which he set out to "Americanize"; as well as elements of Lewis Carroll's seminal ALICE IN WONDERLAND. As it stands, THE WIZARD OF OZ is considered today to be the first American fairy tale. Red, white, blue - and emerald!

Oil baron John D. Rockefeller was a lifelong foe of Baum's father, also an oil magnate, making the real-life Rockefeller's alopecia condition shared by the bald-headed Wizard in Baum's tale an intriguing historical parallel. Homage or petit damage?

OZ-inspired entities in the entertainment realm subsequent to THE WIZARD OF OZ include Gregory Maguire's WICKED, David Lynch's WILD AT HEART, 60s rock band The Seekers' "Ode To Joy", the Scissor Sisters "Return To Oz" and even the recent DA YELLER BRICK ROAD homeboy revisionist take on the tale.

Actors included in original envisioning of THE WIZARD OF OZ film include W.C. Fields and Ed Wynn for the Wizard, Gale Sondergaard as The Wicked Witch, Shirley Temple for Dorothy and Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man - the latter of whom actually was cast before it was discovered he had an allergic reaction to the make-up and had to withdraw. The road to Oz is paved with peril, after all!

In the iconic 1939 film, a reprise of "Over The Rainbow" was originally intended for Dorothy while she is trapped in the Wicked Witch's castle, but was considered simply too intense for audiences at the time.

Judy Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli, starred in the only official sequel to THE WIZARD OF OZ, titled JOURNEY BACK TO OZ. Subsequently, the Walt Disney Company also presented RETURN TO OZ, based on later books in Baum's OZ series.

Donny and Marie and... Dorothy? In 1977, Donny and Marie Osmond starred in a WIZARD OF OZ remake for television which featured the one and only Ray Bolger.

The OZ craze has continued well into the 21st century thanks to the mega-success of WICKED on the page and on the stage, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber's reality competition series and subsequent West End production, plus Sam Raimi's feature film OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL starring this season's upcoming OF MICE & MEN on Broadway leading man James Franco and CABARET leading lady Michelle Williams. The lore lives on.

Pop culture references to THE WIZARD OF OZ range from TITANIC to AVATAR to FIELD OF DREAMS, THE MATRIX, Tom & Jerry, The Muppets, Disney's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and many more. It's certainly, well... popular (to cite a standout song from WICKED)!

In 2000, the ruby red slippers sold at auction for $666,000! More priceless than jewels - and then some.

The Academy Award-winning "Over The Rainbow" has been performed by countless artists over the years - famous iterations include Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, Patti LaBelle, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Harry Nilsson, Kylie Minogue; plus, Broadway baby Matthew Morrison on GLEE and even movie legends Jimmy Stewart and Paul Newman!

Here's to 100 more years of L. Frank Baum's magical THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ - and to 100 more years of BroadwayWorld, as well!


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More On: L. Frank Baum, Rob Diamond, Syracuse University, Richard Jay-Alexander, Michael Crawford, Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Brothers Grimm.

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