Original London Cast

The Wizard of Oz [1988 London Revival Cast] [Highlights]

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L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was given musical stage adaptations starting as early as 1903, when Baum himself wrote a libretto with music by Paul Tietjens and A. Baldwin Sloane. But the most memorable musical version, of course, is the 1939 movie with songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. The film, in turn, was adapted for the stage as early as 1942, sometimes with a mixture of music by Tietjens/Sloane and Arlen/Harburg. But eventually the movie music won out. On December 12, 1987, the Royal Shakespeare Company staged a version of the show on a limited basis in London, and a year later, on December 17, 1988, that production was revived for an extended run in London later transferred to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Before the transfer occurred, the cast gathered at Abbey Road Studios to record this album. One challenge to using only the Arlen/Harburg score for a stage version is that, keeping with the time constraints of a 101-minute film, it's so short. There are only six real songs ("Over the Rainbow"; the "Munchkinland" sequence including "Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead"; "We're off to See the Wizard"; the three sets of lyrics to a single tune, "If I Only Had a Brain," "If I Only Had a Heart," and "If I Only Had the Nerve"; "The Merry Old Land of Oz"; and "If I Were King of the Forest"), plus some fragments. Famously, it could have been worse. M-G-M executives wanted to cut "Over the Rainbow," but were dissuaded at the last minute. One other song, however, did get the axe, "The Jitterbug." Naturally, that song was restored, and there were also plenty of reprises and replayed orchestral snatches of the familiar tunes to pad things out (those additions have, in turn, been deleted for this highlights disc abbreviated from the original 1989 release). The cast, particularly Gillian Bevan in the pivotal role of Dorothy Gale, seems to be attempting to channel the film actors, a task at which they mostly succeed, despite being betrayed here and there by their occasionally faulty attempts at American accents. Bevan in particular is a strong singer, too. The probably inevitable decision to cast children as the Munchkins adds charm and doubtless helped the show play on-stage. The only problem from the point of view of the recording is redundancy. Why do listeners need an album of people imitating Judy Garland and Co. when the real thing is so readily available? [The Highlights CD contains 12 of the 17 songs on the full-length.]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:12
2 3:05
3 11:12
4 3:11
5 0:58
6 2:51
7 1:35
8 2:12
9 5:07
10 4:18
11 5:08
12 2:15
blue highlight denotes track pick