Arts & Culture

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in a movie anymore: How ‘Oz’ morphs in book, film, ballet

The most delightful thing about reading L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”? How different it is from the classic 1939 movie, said participants in The Star’s FYI Book Club.

The group gathered recently at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity to talk about the enduring appeal of a novel that’s well over a century old and to hear about the new “Oz” ballet by Septime Webre opening Kansas City Ballet’s current season. One attendee even wore her own ruby slippers.

In the book, for example, Dorothy leaves Kansas by the end of the first chapter. “In the movie it’s an entire third of it,” said Libee Daniel of Parkville, who is reading the book with her grandchildren. “There’s no separate storm cellar ... no ruby shoes.” In the book, Dorothy’s magical shoes are silver.

“It’s these little things that make you say, Oh, I forgot that!”

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L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was published in 1900.

Marilyn James of Kansas City missed the movie villain Miss Gulch. “I was a little sad to see she’s not in the book,” she said. “Such a great character in the movie.”

Jane Albright, president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, pointed out, “And yet the movie doesn’t resolve her. Miss Gulch is still there at the end and she could still take Toto.”

Albright, along with “Oz” book collector Lynn Beltz of Curlew, Wash., attends annual “Oz” events around the country and visits schools that are reading the book.

“There are many more obstacles in the book than there are in the movie,” James said. “This made the book seem more like a fairy tale.”

Albright agreed and said, “By having all these different obstacles and adversaries in the book, the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion have multiple opportunities to demonstrate wisdom, kindness and courage. It’s easier for readers to see these qualities in the characters. A lot of that isn’t portrayed in the movie.”

James noted recurring themes of friendship, home and knowledge as power. “The Scarecrow knew knowledge was power. He was 2 days old and he wanted that.”

Dorothy gets a hearty welcome from the Munchkins in the Kansas City Ballet production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Kansas City Ballet

Readers laughed when a pivotal scene in the movie was compared to the book: Dorothy throwing water on the Witch.

“First of all,” Daniel said, “in the book, the Witch doesn’t say, ‘I’m melting.’ Dorothy throws a bucket of bathwater at the Witch, who melts. Then Dorothy proceeds to clean up because she’s a good little tidy Midwestern girl.”

Beltz noted, “This scene is showing Dorothy acting like a child, just throwing a little hissy fit, unlike the movie where she’s being heroic to save the Scarecrow.”

Devon Carney, artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet, paid a visit during the conversation to talk about the design elements of the ballet compared to the icons of the book and movie.

In the ballet, like in the movie, Dorothy’s shoes are ruby red.

“It was the dawn of technicolor in movies,” he said. “The color red pops more against the yellow brick road.”

Carney also talked about new characters in the ballet. “Look for ‘Yellow Brick Roadies.’ Those characters in the ballet who help Dorothy and her friends make the journey to Oz.”

For a century-old children’s story, “The Wizard of Oz” continues to delight no matter how the imagination is harnessed, in book, dance or film.

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In the Kansas City Ballet’s version of “The Wizard of Oz,” the Yellow Brick Road comes to life as dancing “Yellow Brick Roadies,” helping Dorothy along her way to the Emerald City. Kansas City Ballet

Kaite Mediatore Stover is the Kansas City Public Library’s director of reader’s services.

Join the club

The Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Public Library present a book-of-the-moment selection every few weeks and invite the community to read along. To participate in a book discussion led by the library’s Kaite Stover, email Look in the Arts+Culture section Nov. 18 for the introduction to the next selection, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas. The discussion will be at 3 p.m. Dec. 9 at the KC Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

On stage

The Kansas City Ballet’s “The Wizard of Oz” continues daily through Oct. 21 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. See or call 816-931-8993.

‘Oz’ at Starlight

“The Wizard of Oz” returns to Starlight Theatre as the first big show of its 2019 summer season. The musical will play June 10-16. Other shows: “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical” June 25-30, “Cats” July 9-14, “A Bronx Tale” July 30-Aug. 4 and “Hello, Dolly” Sept. 24-29. The Broadway series also includes two weekend specials: “Rock of Ages” May 31-June 2 and “Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy” Sept. 6-8. See or call 816-363-7827.

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