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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

This Boston Globe interview with illustrator Bob Staake alerted me to work on an opera based on L. Frank Baum’s The Road to Oz. Googling brought me to the website for the National Oz Museum, a project of Oz collector supreme Willard Carroll.

About the opera, the website says:
Together with the prestigious performing-arts organization Bay Chamber Concerts, the Museum is developing a live multi-media musical based on Baum’s book “The Road to Oz.” The production is being written and will be directed by Willard Carroll, with sets and costumes designed by acclaimed author and illustrator Bob Staake. The concept is to create a one-hour, one-act musical work based on L. Frank Baum’s fifth Oz book.

The approach to the music is not envisioned in a conventional operatic or musical-theater/show-tune way, but to find a unique slant from which to tell the story through character and music. Baum’s characters in this book – Shaggy Man, Polychrome, Button Bright the Rainbow’s Daughter [whoops—Button-Bright seems to have gone missing from his proper place in that sentence], etc. – each offer up imaginative starting points for songs to tie together the story; a story about loss, love, reconnection, hope - and joy deferred and joy attained.
Those are indeed some of the themes of The Road to Oz. The book’s main weakness is its story, both thin and cut short. Yet it’s also immensely pleasing, and that simplicity might benefit adaptations into elevated media. A few years back, for instance, I saw Eric Shanower’s adaptation of the basic tale as an amateur ballet, cut down to focus on the Shaggy Man’s transformation, and it worked.

As for the museum, Carroll’s collection seems still to be mostly in boxes after his move across the country, but this spring students at the Rhode Island School of Design worked on designs for the institution.

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