I think it's probably best to consider this the first Elisberg Industries International Film Festival.
Last year, I wrote about a wonderful TV special I'd seen on TNT back in 1995. It was a benefit concert that adapted The Wizard of Oz movie, which they called, The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True. And it had a seriously-impressive all-star cast, though with a completely unknown young girl in the main role as Dorothy.
Bear with me. Though I'm repeating some things here who remember my earlier postings, there's a reason for all of this.
Anyway, when I say "seriously impressive all-star cast," I mean it. The cast starred Roger Daltrey as the Tin Man, Jackson Browne as the Scarecrow, and Nathan Lane as theCowardly Lion. And the featured cast included Joel Grey playing the Wizard, Natalie Cole as Glinda the Good Witch, Debra Winger as the Wicked Witch, Lucie Arnaz as Aunt Em, and it had a couple of musical interlude appearances from Phoebe Snow and Ronnie Spector, along with Dr. John. And The Boys Choir of Harlem played the Munchkins. Moreover, the orchestra featured music greats Ry Cooder on guitar and saxophonist David Sanborn, and Dr. John .
Like I said, all star.
Oh, and that unknown girl who starred as Dorothy, a young singer I'd never heard of -- she hadn't even released her first album yet -- was someone named...Jewel.
The whole show was wonderful, but Jewel really stood out. Not so much because she was "the best" (though she was very good), but because she was so utterly unexpected, and held her own against such huge luminaries. She also had a whole lot more to do than the others, and had clearly studied her part more than them, not needing to reference her script nearly as much as the others. And even did some dancing. The reaction of the audience, who was clearly there to see the others, the Stars, who they actually knew - and loved -- was palpable, most notably after her introduction blowing them away with "Over the Rainbow," and with the roars she got at the curtain call. (Unfortunately, for time on television, they cut fairly quickly after "Over the Rainbow," but you can tell by the raucous applause she gets, that it went on a long while.)
For some odd reason, the show has never been repeated on TNT. Ever. It's possible maybe once that same week, but I don't recall at this point, though I don't think so. I just happened to luck out and was flipping channels and came upon it a few minutes in -- in time to hear "Over the Rainbow." Maybe there were rights problems, I have no idea. But it's never even been released on DVD.
Last year, I came across a bunch of highlights online from the show, that were half a dozen videos with songs, and posted them. It wasn't much, but it beat nothing, and kept this production from remaining lost.
Well, not long ago, browsing again, as I am wont to do -- I tracked down the whole show!
It's not a single, standalone video, but rather broken into seven parts. They were spread all over the place, not conveniently on a "Wizard of Oz" channel, but I was able to collect them all and put them in proper order. I was thinking of posting the whole group of them at the same time, but I figured that would be sort of messy. And then I realized that these seven segments might work out even better -- it's not likely that most people would want to watch all 90 minutes in one sitting, most particularly since the quality isn't great. But broken up into segments of about 12-minutes each night...now, that might work better.
And so, that's what we shall do. Over the next six days (one of the seven segments is only about a minute long, so I'll post two that day), I'll be posting the full version of The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True. Based, of course, on the novel by L. Frank Baum. (Hey, I've got to give credit to the original source!)
As I said, the video quality is a little washed out, but it's fully watchable. The script sticks pretty closely to the movie, though it's edited down a bit, and has some narration to bridge the gaps. And there are a couple of musical interludes, as mentioned, though they're a lot of fun. And there's also an added treat that this production has included the famously-cut song and big dance number, "The Jitterbug," that was cut from the film. And the whole thing is made all the more fun, I think, if when you're watching it you try to do so from the perspective of not knowing who in the world this young girl is in the starring role, never having heard of it before rather than imposing an after-the-fact awareness and preconceptions on to it.
So, with all that out of the way, here, with its glorious score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, is the Elisberg Industries International Film Festival -- Part One of The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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