OZ-STRAV! 2019: RUBY & RAINBOWS & ROGER & METRO & MUNCHKINS & MUSIC . . . & MORE!
by John Fricke
[Above: Looking back to 2002 and an Ozzy ocean liner cruise, here are four of the MGM Munchkins whose annual appearance in Chittenango, NY, provided a focal point for many of the OZ-Stravaganza! festivals — from the late 1980s until just a few years ago. From left: soldier Clarence Swensen, coroner Meinhardt Raabe, first trumpeter/townsman/soldier/townswoman Karl Slover, and flower-pot dancer/sleepyhead Margaret Pellegrini. Memories of their visits, company, and friendship will be shared as an entertainment highlight of this year’s OZ-Stravaganza! activities.]
Spring is here – calendar-wise, anyway. 😊 And that means that Chittenango and its L. Frank Baum and All Things Oz Historical Foundation and Museum are gearing up for the annual OZ-Stravaganza, May 31st – June 2nd. This is the town’s forty-second annual festival, created and continued in celebration of the man who was born there (in 1856) . . . and whose imagination, entertainment savvy, and genius created the Land of Oz and all its citizens.
This year’s theme – THE MAGIC OF OZ – takes its title from Baum’s thirteenth book in the Oz series, published exactly one-hundred-years ago. Such a topic is singularly appropriate, as there is MAJOR magic in the air in 2019: it’s also the eightieth anniversary of the premiere of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s classic motion picture version of THE WIZARD OF OZ. To honor this best-loved, best-known, and recently dubbed “most influential” film of all time, OZ-Stravaganza! proudly presents a FREE and OPEN-TO-THE-PUBLIC screening of the movie as Saturday evening’s festival entertainment. OZ will be shown in the Chittenango High School auditorium, and as OZ-Strav! emcee, I’ll introduce the picture and then conduct a question & answer session after it’s over. (An important note: If you haven’t viewed Judy Garland & Company in THE WIZARD OF OZ on a BIG SCREEN, you really haven’t seen it at all! And if you’ve already seen in such fashion, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll still notice things you never saw before! So, mark your calendars now for Saturday evening, June 1st.)
Attendees of the 2017 OZ-Strav! will fondly remember the appearance of TINA MARIE CASAMENTO, whose stage musical, CHASING RAINBOWS, was then in development after productions at the State Theatre of North Carolina at Flat Rock and Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House. This year, the festival proudly boasts the presence of the young star of CHASING RAINBOWS, RUBY RAKOS. Already a Broadway veteran, RUBY appeared in BILLY ELLIOTT when barely a teen, and she’s played the thirteen-to-sixteen-year-old Judy Garland to outstanding reviews and reception across the past few seasons in CHASING RAINBOWS. The show culminates in the casting of Judy as Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ film, so RUBY’S presence at OZ-Strav! is a wonderful, serendipitous addition to this year’s roster. The photos above show her as herself . . . and as young Judy in CHASING RAINBOWS. By happy coincidence, the man shown with her is MICHAEL McCORRY ROSE, who’s not only appeared in the Garland stage show but on Broadway as Fiyero in WICKED. Many of you will recall MICHAEL as a most welcome guest at last year’s OZ-Strav.
And here’s one more wondrous – magical! — P.S. for everyone in the northeast: CHASING RAINBOWS has just been announced as the season opener at the legendary Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, from September 27 – October 26th!
And the celebration continues: ROGER BAUM’S first Oz book, DOROTHY OF OZ, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year. The great-grandson of Frank Baum himself, ROGER’S own literary contribution to the Saga of Oz now includes more than a dozen volumes. OZ-Strav! 2019 will be honored by the return of ROGER and his wife CHARLENE – and we’ll also offer a mini-salute to LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN, the charming and children-adored animated film which now commemorates its fifth anniversary. (LEGENDS OF OZ is based on DOROTHY OF OZ, thus tying everything together!)
Meanwhile, all of that is just the beginning of what’s planned as an enchanted weekend for Ozians. Songwriter STEVE MARGOSHES – whose original Oz melodies and lyrics were a triumph at last year’s fest – returns with the debut of at least two new Oz-related compositions: a barbershop roundelay and “Tin Man” (the latter to be performed by MATTHEW BAUM). SHAWN RYAN dazzled 2018 attendees with his stunning recreations of Oz stage costumes from THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE WIZ, and WICKED; he’ll be back, as well, to reveal his latest work and to greet fellow enthusiasts at the All Things Oz Museum.
Of course, this is just the beginning of the OZ-Stravaganza! outlay for 2019. Additional specifics – times, locations, activities, parade and contest details, the roster for Authors & Artists’ Alley, and the like – will be forthcoming on the OZ-Stravaganza! website: www.oz-stravaganza.com
As I hope is obvious, it’s time to set that GPS for a trek down to Yellow Brick Road – and to make your plans to be part of THE MAGIC OF OZ! This once-in-a-lifetime weekend of rainbows, music, memories, celebrities, costumes, and emotional joy takes place from Friday through Sunday, May 31st – June 2nd, at OZ-Stravaganza! 2019 in Chittenango, NY. It’s the village that gave us “The Man Behind the Curtain” of some of the greatest entertainments of the twentieth AND twenty-first centuries!