I took my five-year-old granddaughter to see a stage production of The Wizard of Oz, Sunday night at the Music Hall in Fair Park. We had good seats (thank you, Craigslist!), and it was fine as far as G-rated family entertainment goes.

Broadway caliber it was not: The Dallas Morning News’ drama critic had complained that the production was a bit cheesy and amateurish, and I have to admit that I’ve seen better acting and singing in any number of community theaters.

But never mind. Isabella and I share a love of the 1939 Oz movie, which we have watched together so often that by now I have memorized every line of dialogue, every song lyric, every bit of business.

Sometimes she will request an Oz song from me, usually a medley of the introductory solos sung by the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow (whom Iz charmingly refers to as “the Squarecrow”). She was fascinated by the whole stage show, although it may say something about the human actors that she was most impressed by Toto. “He’s a real dog!” she whispered, ecstatically.

Oz fanatic that I am, perhaps it was fate that I once met Judy Garland’s daughter. (No, not Liza Minnelli – Lorna Luft.) With my talent for completely useless trivia, I know an unhealthy amount about the Oz movie.  Things like: Buddy Ebsen was supposed to play the Tin Man, but he turned out to be deathly allergic to the metallic makeup and had to be replaced by Jack Haley. But you can still hear Ebsen singing in the chorus of “We’re off to see the Wizard…”

I can tell you that the Munchkin Coroner, Meinhardt Raabe, is still alive at 93. I know that Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, suffered a terrible burn during one of her pyrotechnic vanishing scenes.

I know that Texas native King Vidor (who survived the 1900 Galveston hurricane) shot the sepia-toned opening scenes of Kansas with the still-amazing cyclone effects, while credited Oz director Victor Fleming was busy with Gone With the Wind.

It’s odd to realize that the film’s signature song, ”Over the Rainbow” almost didn’t make the final cut, thanks to MGM studio execs who thought it slowed down an already-long film. Fleming was perfectly willing to let the song go on the cutting-room floor. The songwriters, Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, desperately pleaded their case to Louis B. Mayer himself, who relented — and they were vindicated when it won the Oscar for Best Song.

I still think it’s too bad that the film didn’t use the song’s introductory verse:

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around
Heaven opens a magic lane
When all the clouds darken up the skyway
There’s a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your windowpane
To a place behind the sun
Just a step beyond the rain…

Happily, they used that verse in the stage version, and it almost made up for everything the production lacked, even the Music Hall’s bad acoustics. Seventy years on, the magic of Oz is still there for those who await the rainbow.

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