This summer, Columbia Summer Winds is taking a trip over the rainbow, down the yellow brick road, to the Emerald City. James Barnes’s arrangement of Harold Arlen’s famous tunes is so ravishingly good, it almost makes it sound like they were originally written for band. Here it is, performed by the Alabama All-State Red Band (in a gymtorium – what does that say about Alabama?) in a truly fine 2007 performance:
I’m not sure what I can possibly add to the mountain of Wizard of Oz knowledge that’s out there. So here are a few highlights:
There are too many spin-offs of The Wizard of Oz to even conceive of naming, but here are a few. L. Frank Baum, the author of the original book, wrote two sequels himself, Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz (which was itself reinterpreted as a comic in 2010). These two together spawned a nightmare-inducing movie sequel by Disney in 1985. But most spin-offs come from the original. There’s the 2005 Muppet version, and the crummy, steampunky Syfy version (how is it so bad with Alan Cumming and Zoey Deschanel?!) from 2007. There’s the 1995 book and the 2003 musical (not to mention the band arrangement) Wicked, which recasts the Wicked Witch of the West as the misunderstood protagonist. There’s also 1978’s the Wiz, which retells the tale through the lense of African American culture. These two musicals have given us a treasure of excellent music. But none of these have come close to rivaling the beloved status or the cultural pervasiveness of the original 1939 film.
For those who have spent their lives under a rock: The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy Gale, who lives on a grey farm in Kansas. She wants to see what’s over the rainbow. Well, wouldn’t you know it, a tornado comes to town and sweeps her, her house, and her dog, Toto, to Oz, where everything is in brilliant color. Her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny. The Munchkins and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, hail her as a hero and tell her to follow the yellow-brick road to the Wizard of Oz in Emerald City if she wants to get home. Before she leaves, they give her the Wicked Witch of the East’s ruby slippers. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, who needs a brain, the Tin Man, who lacks a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, who lacks courage. Together, they travel to the Emerald City, only to be told by the mysterious and powerful Wizard that they have to kill the Wicked Witch of the West in order to get their wishes granted. The Witch captures them. When all seems lost, Dorothy throws water on the Witch, causing her to melt away. They return to the Wizard, only to find that he’s just an ordinary guy from Omaha with no powers at all. Still, he makes things right, and in the end, everyone gets home.
Here’s the iconic performance of the film: Judy Garland sings “Over the Rainbow”:
Finally, I have to mention my favorite Oz-related thing: Play the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon along with the movie (sound off, of course), and a great many interesting coincidences happen! They call this phenomenon Dark Side of the Rainbow.