In 1939 Judy Garland’s sparkling ruby slippers stepped onto the yellow brick road on the big screen for the first time. The story had been one of the everlasting musical tales and this year celebrates its 80th anniversary.
It’s only fitting that Nova Music Theatre is hard at work bringing the universally loved The Wizard of Oz back to Melbourne. L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was first brought to life on stage as an operetta in 1902. Popularised by the MGM film in 1939, both the original source material and film have spawned several musical versions, inspired retellings and given life to spin-offs including the outstandingly popular Wicked.
After Dorothy and faithful dog Toto are swept away by a tornado, they must travel the yellow brick road to find their way back home. Making important friendships along the way, their journey becomes one of self-discovery. There are not many shows that continue to captivate and entertain generation after generation. Apart from its beautifully whimsical songs and range of characters, the themes presented in The Wizard of Oz of selfempowerment and friendship are likely a contributor to its enduring relevance.
In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the original film, Nova will be staging the musical written for The Royal Shakespeare Company and derived from the film and Baum’s book. Across three weeks in July, nearly 100 performers aged from 7 to 67 sang, danced and workshopped for their chance to be part of the iconic show.
At the helm of the production team with the unenviable task of casting, Artistic Director, Noel Browne will direct for the first time. “I’ve had the pleasure of performing the show as the Cowardly Lion,” Noel says, “but this will be the first time I have directed it. It’s a fantastic version, a great story and amazing music.”
Despite the entertainment industry maxim, ‘never work with children or animals’, Noel is no stranger to working with either. Coming off the back of a successful production of Annie, he welcomes to Nova a Munchkin Ensemble of 18 children aged between 7 and 14. “I always enjoy working with younger performers. They bring a different perspective and energy that you don’t always get from theatre veterans. On the other hand, a show like The Wizard of Oz is a fantastic opportunity to bring younger performers into our company and have the chance to work with our established cast members”.
Nova Music Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz, which opens at the Whitehorse Theatre on Saturday 26 October, runs until Sunday 10 November.
Tickets are available online at novamusictheatre.com.au or via 1300 304 433.