The Wizard of Oz

Poster for stage production of The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz was a 1902 stage play based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, which was originally published in 1900. It premiered in Chicago and later moved to Broadway in 1903, where it ran for nearly 300 performances from January 21, 1903 to December 31, 1904, followed by travelling tours of the original cast.

An element from the show - the snowfall caused by the Good Witch which finally kills the smell of the poppies that had put Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion to sleep - was later used in the famous 1939 movie.

The play was written by L. Frank Baum himself, though after producer Fred R. Hamlin and director Julian Mitchell rejected his 1901 spec script, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which held close to the novel, he wrote a completely new script based on their desires. He hired a New York joke writer, Glen MacDonough to add topical humor he felt himself incapable of writing. Most of the original songs were written by Paul Tietjens on Baum's lyrics, but two, The Guardian of the Gate which was cut ofter only a few performances, and The Different Ways of Making Love (which sounded less risqué at the time) were composed by Nathaniel D. Mann, who later wrote the score for Baum's 1908 film/theatrical presentation, The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays.

The witches are largely absent in this version; The Good Witch of the North appears, named Locasta, and The Wicked Witch of the East is a special effect. The Wicked Witch of the West does not appear, and Glinda appears to have been written out, as she does not appear in the Broadway cast list, although she does appear on another one. Toto has also been replaced by a cow named Imogene.

The animals in the play, including the Cowardly Lion, did not speak, based on pantomime tradition. Although the lion costume was realistic, far more so than Bert Lahr's in the MGM film, his main purpose was a bit of comic relief and scaring off the villains on occasion. His quest for courage is completely omitted, much as the other characters' quests are deemphasized in favor of various comic routines. Ultimately, though, their desire to seek the Wizard's aid gets them caught on the wrong side of the revolution, jailed and ultimately scheduled for execution. In a deus ex machina, another tornado arrives to sweep Dorothy home from the chopping block.

The play has been revived in Tarpon Springs, Florida by the New Century Opera Company in 1998 and, most recently, July 2006. Hungry Tiger Press announced several years ago that it would be publishing the complete libretto for the first time, but has been delayed years beyond the original announcement on claims of finding new material, though many suspect the sudden death of James Patrick Doyle was the major factor, which the company denies. There have been several new recordings of the songs, though none have had major distribution.