If ever (oh ever) a wiz there was, the Wizard of Oz is one, because (times six) of the wonderful things he does. For example, 113 years after L. Frank Baum penned his great American fairy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and nearly three-quarters of a century following the iconic MGM movie adaptation starring Judy Garland, the Wizard is still bringing patrons to the theater in droves. Last summer, the Orpheum's summer film series screening of The Wizard of Oz attracted a capacity crowd, and as of now, Sam Rami's Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to the original, is 2013's reigning worldwide box-office champion. Ballet on Wheels opens The Wiz at the Cannon Center in May, and Wicked, a revisionist musical focusing on the witches of Oz, makes its return to the Orpheum in January 2014. This week, Ballet Memphis is reviving its grandly imagined retelling of young Dorothy Gale's trip by cyclone from the Kansas plains to a technicolor land where a scarecrow dances and monkeys fly.
When Ballet Memphis' young director Steven McMahon originally staged Wizard of Oz in 2007, he shunned American composers and looked across the Atlantic for sonic inspiration, choosing dynamic selections by Gustav Holst and Benjamin Britten. McMahon, last seen onstage tearing the head off of a teddy bear in George & Betty's House at Playhouse on the Square, took an unabashedly modern approach to the well-known material, blending visual elements from the original film with his own, more expressionistic vision for Baum's dark-edged classic.
Ballet Memphis presents Wizard of Oz at The Orpheum Saturday-Sunday, April 20th-21st, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $5 to $72. Balletmemphis.org