It is an undisputed fact that THE WIZARD OF OZ is, and will always be one of the greatest musicals for pleasing an audience. The story, by L. Frank Baum, was partly inspired by Baum's childhood love of Grimm's Fairy Tales and partly by his desire to provide his four young sons with something a little more exciting to read than the ponderous fiction available at the turn of the century in the United States.
The first stage production of THE WIZARD OF OZ opened in Chicago on June 16, 1902 and introduced the fabulously memorable characters which we all have grown to love. For this reason, the show continues to grow in popularity as each new generation is introduced to it.
THE WIZARD OF OZ is a musical which is a pleasure to cast because of the empathetic characters who serve as archetypes for society. From the Cowardly Lion, to the Wicked Witch, to Dorothy who learns that "there is no place like home," the characters are sure to delight the audience. In addition, producers of this show find that the number of aspiring actors who turn out to audition for THE WIZARD OF OZ always exceeds expectations. It is not surprising that famous actors have made their mark by playing these roles over the years.
While the characters have become standards, so have the fabulous musical numbers which enchant all who hear them. Among the classic songs are Over The Rainbow, Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead
and We're Off To See The Wizard
While THE WIZARD OF OZ is a fantasy, many drama instructors report that they have successfully tied in other parts of their school curriculums to their productions. Courses in meteorology and English classes focusing on the role of the imagination have enhanced the impact of the show on the school community where it has been performed.
Baum himself was a colorful man who was said to have taken the word "Oz" from a filing cabinet drawer labeled O-Z. His inspiration for the character of the Scarecrow also had a real-life source. Outside Baum's childhood home there stood a straw man dressed in a worn and faded blue suit and a tattered straw hat. "I always remember him hanging there, all sort of shapeless" Baum said years later. "He never got moved. We just ploughed and sowed round him every year. He wasn't much use, but no one had the heart to move him. Then, one winter he got blown away. We never found a trace." When asked if he thought the Scarecrow might have gone looking for a brain like the character in the musical, the author only smiled enigmatically.
In his original preface to the book, Baum describes what he set out to create—"Folklore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous and manifestly unreal. The winged fairies of Grimm and Anderson have brought more happiness to childish hearts than all other human creations.
Yet the old-time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as 'historical' in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer 'wonder tales' in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore, the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.
Having this thought in mind, the story of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' was written solely to pleasure children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonder and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out."