You can hiss and boo all you want at the Wicked Witch. Or at Glinda, if you’d rather. (Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer )
When the 3D version of “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) rolled into the downtown IMAX Theater last September in time for the movie’s 75th anniversary, some close friends quickly bought tickets and insisted that my wife and I join them for a matinee screening.
Even though I am often unfairly accused of “hating musicals” because of my job as a movie critic, I deeply love “The Wizard of Oz.” I’m pretty sure I am not alone on this feeling.
As we hunkered down in our seats in the packed movie house at the Challenger Learning Center, my wife leaned over and said, “Please, do not sing all the Cowardly Lion’s parts and don’t curse out loud when the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys are unleashed. You know, like you do when we watch it at home.”
Do you know how hard it is not to sing along with lyrics like “what makes the Hottentot so hot? Who put the ape in apricot?” Or, not yell, “Hit the deck!” when the flying monkeys are about to rip the stuffing out of the Scarecrow?
It was hard to keep quiet during that screening while some of my fellow movie fans helped Judy Garland sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or Ray Bolger croon “If I Only Had a Brain.”
Emily Brown, the marketing and communications manager for the Challenger Learning Center, noticed the same thing. That is part of the reason that the “Wizard of Oz” Sing-Along is being shown two times this weekend on the five-story screen at the IMAX. It is being co-sponsored by the Tallahassee Community Chorus.
“It (the 3D ‘Wizard’) sort of reminded people of how much they loved it,” Brown said this week. “Everyone was singing along anyway, so we decided to bring it back.”
While this Sing-Along print is not in 3D, there will be plenty of three dimensional action going on in the audience.
“People shout at the screen and holler,” Brown said. “This is not a demure movie experience. You’re not at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall listening to the symphony.”
Robert Stuart, the artistic director at Young Actors Theatre, has signed on to serve as the “Wizard of Oz” emcee and music-master.
“He’s a riot, an absolute riot,” Brown said. “He’s directed it on stage, acted in it. He knows it front, back and sideways.”
Stuart will hand out free “props” to the audience that have tie-ins with songs or famous scenes in the movie. The lyrics to each classic tune will be included on the screen in subtitles.
“It has a bouncing ball that you follow and the lyrics light up, just like karaoke,” Brown said. “Some of his (the Cowardly Lion) lyrics are spelled phonetically.”
Did I forget to mention that Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion is the best character in the movie?
Dress up, if you’d like
The first time that the Challenger Center and the Community Chorus teamed up for a sing-along show was in 2012 with “The Sound of Music” (1965). It was an instant hit.
“It sold out twice,” Brown said.
In 2013, the “Grease” Sing-Along attracted large crowds of fans, many of whom dressed up in poodle skirts and ‘50s greaser garb.
Brown said she is expecting the “Wizard of Oz” crowds to go all out when it comes to costumes because so many people dressed up for the 3D “Wizard of Oz” screening. And there was not even a costume contest, like there will be this weekend.
“If we have 200 Dorothys show up, I won’t be disappointed,” Brown said.
The emcee is certainly getting in on the act.
“I plan to show off some pretty fun ruby slippers,” Stuart said. “Cindy Holmes (from the Tallahassee Community Chorus) saw me as ZaZa in Theatre Tallahassee’s production of the musical ‘La Cage aux Folles‘ and commented on my banter with the audience, feeling that it would be appropriate for the sing-along. Keeping that in mind, as well as my role in that show, let’s just say in Act Two, after intermission, the Sing-Along audience will have a treat when they see a pretty fun frock in front of them. Remember this is an opportunity for some fun costumes.”
Whether you are dressed as a flying monkey in a bellhop outfit or as a Munchkin or as yourself, Brown said everyone should show up an hour before each screening for a reception and an open bar. On Saturday night, the bar will serve beer and wine. During the matinee on Sunday, the concessions will showcase Emerald City Slushies for the kids.
“Either day, it’s family-friendly,” Brown said.
When I asked Brown why “The Wizard of Oz” has such lasting appeal, she had a pretty simple answer: nostalgia.
“It used to be shown on TV every year and a lot of parents watched it every year while they were growing up,” Brown said. “So there is a lot of nostalgia involved. It’s a childhood memory thing to share with their kids.”
Stuart thinks there is something deeper running through “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I think people love ‘The Wizard of Oz’ so much because we all felt what it is like to feel unappreciated, misunderstood and left out,” Stuart said. “That’s how Dorothy feels. She’s pushed aside early on in the movie because her aunt and uncle are busy. The only friend she has is her dog, the lovable Toto. She wants to be heard. So she decides to run away. And then on her journeys she realizes that her families always with her. Love is right where you least expect it. Your family.”
If you go
“The Wizard of Oz” Sing-Along
7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. A reception starts in the lobby one hour before each screening
IMAX Theatre in the Challenger Learning Center on Kleman Plaza
$20 general public and $15 childen
645-7796 or visit www.singalongTLH.com
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