The Valley High School Theatre Department’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” was uproariously received in the VHS Little Theater on February 22- 25. Based on the first of L. Frank Baum’s 14 Oz novels published in 1900, and its subsequent successful Broadway adaptation in 1902, followed by an unprofitable 1925 silent film, this radically altered musical stage version is modelled from the joyously colorful MGM spectacle originally released on August 25, 1939, (in full-disclosure, 87 days after my arrival on Earth).
The dramatic backstory generally adheres to the classic monomyth of the heroine’s (young Dorothy Gale) departure from her familiar Kansas surroundings through unforeseen circumstances (twister tornado), where both glorious fantasy (Munchkinland and the Emerald City) and fearful horror (the vengeful Wicked Witch of the West and terrifying Winged Monkeys) are encountered. Sent on a mission to get back home after the Wicked Witch of the East has been killed by a house dropping upon her, the good witch Glinda appears to magically retrieve the ruby slippers from the victim, placing them on Dorothy facing threats of “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog [her companion Toto], too.”
Along the Yellow Brick Road, the path of Initiation, in pursuit of the Wizard dwelling in the Emerald City, she engages the assistance of the straw-made Scarecrow, who desires a brain, the hollow Tin Man, who hopes for a heart and the Cowardly Lion, in search of courage. On arrival, they’re initially rebuffed by the doorman, until he learns she’s the One sent by Glinda. He, thus, leads them to an audience into the intimidatingly loud projected presence of the Wizard, amid pulsating putrid green smoke. He promises to grant their wishes if they bring him the deceased Witch’s broomstick, now in the possession of her sister.
From there, Dorothy and Toto are taken captive by the Winged Monkey agents of the Wicked Witch of the West, but subsequently freed through the strenuous efforts of our heroine’s loyal friends. Then, on the run from pursuing guards, they are confronted by the Witch, who vainly attempts to retrieve the ruby slippers, whereupon discovering the impossibility of doing so, since they are protecting Dorothy. When the Witch sets fire to the straw Scarecrow, Dorothy grabs a nearby bucket of water, and in the dowsing spray, their adversary is surprisingly ‘liquidated’.
Thankful for their own release from servitude to the Witch, the guards offer the broomstick to its seekers. They return to the Wizard, who insists they come back the next day, but Toto snarls away the curtain exposing just a nondescript man manipulating levers to create an imposing deceit. Caught in the act, he consents to ‘grant’ their three wishes by issuing them officially recognized symbols of the achievements they’ve already demonstrated they have.
The ‘Wizard’ then invites Dorothy to return to Kansas with him in the “Omaha” hot air balloon he arrived in. But when Toto jumps out of the wicker-basket, Dorothy goes after him. Simultaneously, the balloon is released, leaving Dorothy alone and worried until Glinda reappears to inform her that she’s always had the secret of her return in the simple clicking of her ruby slipper’s heels three times reciting the incantation: “There’s no place like home.”
Thus spoken, as though from a dream, her return to the normal everyday world is complete, while identifying the inner depth desires of those around her, even, perhaps, hidden from themselves. However, to us all, the lesson is there’s no place like home.