Previews: OZ at FreeFall Theatre

The original musical collaboration between freeFall's Artistic Director Eric Davis and Music Director Michael Raabe runs through July 9.

By: Jun. 09, 2023
Previews: OZ at FreeFall Theatre
Previews: OZ at FreeFall Theatre
Photo by Thee Photo Ninja

A collaboration between Artistic Director Eric Davis (book), and Music Director Michael Raabe (composition and lyrics), OZ is a new musical debuting at FreeFall Theatre through July 9.

Said Raabe, “The show has really been a collaboration with Eric Davis from day one. We’ve always had an outline, but as we wrote, I would get a scene or two at a time as he would finish them. Sometimes I would work on a song, and then he’d write a scene around it. It was always thrilling to see what he would come up with. That’s what I love about collaborating. What can artists bring out in each other as we weave a story together? So much has changed over the past three years of working on the show (both in the world and in our show.) It’s a very different show than our first pass at it. Some early songs are now used in completely different (and better ways).”

Raabe described OZ as an original musical that explores the genius of L. Frank Baum and his complicated relationship with his most famous creation, the Land of Oz. It is the story of a dreamer at the dawn of a new age who reinvented the fairy tale in a distinctly American way, painting an idealized and magical vision of a world where witches might be good and what you’re seeking is already inside you.

“My 5-second pitch is… Sunday In The Park With George meets Finding Neverland about the creator of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz and its 13 sequels,” he quipped.

Raabe re-read Baum’s 14-book series and was surprised to find the author ahead of his time; he supported women’s right to vote and full equality.

“Although aspects of the show are a work of fiction, we really tried to be as accurate to his life and influences as possible. I know our audiences will be inspired by this dreamer who believed in a better world and used his art to show that possibility. We also explore themes of imposter syndrome and how we leave a legacy behind.

“It’s so easy to turn on the news or scroll through social media and be overwhelmed by darkness and conflict. We really wanted to show an American literary pioneer who dreamed of an idealized country of ingenuity, kindness, and courage where we celebrate the strange and wonderful people we encounter along our path, and sometimes what we are searching for is already inside us. I’d love for the 2 hours spent with us to inspire people to seek out the legacy of Baum and explore the magic of OZ.”

Previews: OZ at FreeFall Theatre
Photo by Thee Photo Ninja

Raabe praised the collaboration between the creative team, actors, and musicians and said the audience would feel that special connection.

“I think audiences will feel that and the general love on stage. Also, everyone loves a good biopic and the “story behind something famous.”  Our show is a ‘musical fantasia’ on the ‘man behind the curtain’ of one of the world’s most beloved children’s stories.”

Raabe said that one of his favorite scenes involved the backstory of the Scarecrow and an homage to “If I Only Had A Brain” called “Not There.”

His second favorite scene happened at the close of the musical in a song called “A Place Called OZ.”

“ It was also the hardest song for me to write. I wanted it to feel like our version of ‘Over The Rainbow,’ which felt like a daunting task. What would Dorothy say about his land where ‘dreams really do come true’ once she’s been there? How would she express all she’s gained from this beautiful place to the person who created it as he looks back on his life and work?” Raabe explained. “It was a personal song to me, thanking L. Frank Baum for the joy his stories have brought to my life (and so many others). It also invites the audience to seek out Baum’s books, open the cover, and step into this beautiful world. The cast and musicians perform it beautifully, and as it closes the show, I glance at the artists around me and feel extremely grateful to be able to tell this story with them at this theatre. I really hope that Frank would be proud.”

The original musical is OZ runs through July 9 at freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. Learn more and purchase tickets at

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