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December 13, 2022

A Guide to The Wizard of Oz


Concord Theatricals proudly licenses three versions (US/UK) of The Wizard of Oz – two full-length versions and one 60-minute Youth Edition. Here’s a brief guide to help you distinguish the three titles, along with two handy “at-a-glance” charts: one comparing the musical numbers and one comparing the cast of characters.

The Wizard of Oz is timeless. L. Frank Baum’s beloved story of a young girl’s adventure in a magical land, first published in 1900, has been entertaining audiences for well over a century. MGM’s blockbuster 1939 film adaptation, featuring the remarkable songs of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, along with the brilliant instrumental music of Herbert Stothart, elevated the popular novel to even greater heights. Each of Concord Theatricals’ three stage adaptations, featuring celebrated songs from the film, brings the wondrous Land of Oz to life in a jubilant theatrical experience.

The MUNY Version is a loose adaptation of the story, with new characters and a vaudevillian flair; the RSC Version adheres closely to the MGM film; and the Youth Edition is a 60-minute reduction of the RSC Version.

The MUNY Version (US/UK) was the first stage adaptation of Baum’s novel to feature the songs from MGM’s 1939 film. Created for the Municipal Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri in 1942 and revived there several times, this adaptation originally featured Evelyn Wycoff as Dorothy and Al Downing as the Munchkin Mayor.

The script for the MUNY Version deviates considerably from the film’s screenplay, and much of the dialogue reflects a vaudeville-style sense of humor. In one scene, for example, the Wicked Witch of the West visits with two neighboring witches, trading comic puns like “I’m having dinner with an old ghoul friend.” The Wicked Witch also has a butler-like servant: a well-mannered skeleton named Tibia.

Other added characters unique to this version include Farmhand Joe, the Royal Army of Oz (which consists of 24 generals and one private), an Ozian named Lord Growlie, and Gloria of Oz, a young woman who sings “In the Merry Old Land of Oz.”

Created in an era before special effects were easily accessible, the MUNY Version was designed for a live theatre with simple effects and limited resources. Toto does not appear, removing the need for an animal trainer, and the script requires fewer scene changes. At the end of the show, rather than attempt a journey by hot-air balloon, Dorothy and the Wizard set off for Kansas in a rocket ship. (In the original production, this ship appeared onstage and slowly moved offstage before “taking off.”)

Dorothy does not wear ruby slippers in this version; instead, the Good Witch leaves a mark on her forehead to protect her. And this version does not end with the movie’s famous closing line “There’s no place like home,” concluding instead with a reprise of “Over the Rainbow” as Dorothy and the Wizard depart from Oz.

Almost all the songs from the film remain, however, and one new song is added: In the second act, some young women of Oz ask Dorothy to sing “about stars an’ love, an’ that stuff,” so she sings a lovely ballad called “Evening Star” (music by Peter de Rose, lyrics by Mitchell Parish).  

The RSC Version (US/UK) is a more faithful adaptation of the film, recreating the dialogue and structure of the MGM classic nearly scene for scene. This version, based on a 1987 production by The Royal Shakespeare Company, includes indelible lines from the movie, like “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” “I’ll get you, my pretty… and your little dog, too!” and the Wizard’s unforgettable advice to the Tinman: “Remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

It also includes the Kansas scenes featuring Miss Gulch, Zeke, Hickory, Hunk and Professor Marvel, all of whom reappear as different characters in Oz. (For the inaugural production, the roles of Aunt Em and Glinda were also doubled, as were the roles of Uncle Henry and the Emerald City Guard.)

And, of course, the RSC Version contains memorable details from the film, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the hot-air balloon scene, and the immortal closing line, “There’s no place like home.”

Amazingly, it took almost 50 years for a stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz to feature the dialogue and structure of the film’s screenplay. The RSC Version premiered at the Barbican Centre in London on December 17, 1987. The production starred Imelda Staunton as Dorothy and featured Bille Brown as the Wicked Witch of the West, Paul Greenwood as the Scarecrow and John Bowe as the Tin Man. Imelda Staunton’s husband, Jim Carter (of Downton Abbey fame) played the Cowardly Lion.

The RSC Version includes two songs that were omitted from the MUNY Version: “Optimistic Voices,” (“You’re out of the woods / You’re out of the dark / You’re out of the night”) and the Lion’s comic number “If I Were King of the Forest.” It also restores one song that was cut from the film: “Jitterbug,” a playful swing number sung by Dorothy and her friends, offers a great opportunity for a dancing ensemble led by a strong featured dancer.

Designed for a more contemporary theatre, the RSC Version includes the character of Toto and requires a bit more in the way of special effects, though the show has been presented very successfully by theatres with limited budgets.

If your audience is expecting to see the MGM film onstage, the RSC Version is the adaptation for you.

The Youth Edition (US/UK) is a one-hour adaptation of the RSC Version, specially designed in conjunction with iTheatrics for young actors performing for family audiences. Carefully crafted from the original, this version contains every song featured in the RSC version and spreads the wealth to more actors by reassigning lines – both spoken and sung – to supporting characters.

In an additional dose of theatrical magic, the Youth Edition shows Toto being transformed by the wonder of Oz. Represented by a puppet in the Kansas scenes, Dorothy’s canine friend is portrayed by a costumed actor in the Land of Oz.

Licensed with prerecorded rehearsal and performance tracks, the Youth Edition is ideal for schools, camps and afterschool programs. It features all the elements of the RSC version in a more accessible, easily rehearsed production.

Whatever version of The Wizard of Oz you choose to produce, you’re sure to have a fulfilling and transformative experience as you and your audience laugh the day away in the Merry Old Land of Oz!

See below for a quick look at the musical numbers and characters that appear in each version of The Wizard of Oz.

An image of the Musical Numbers Guide for The Wizard of Oz Collection.

For a downloadable PDF of the Musical Numbers Guide, click here.

An image of the Characters Guide for The Wizard of Oz Collection.

For a downloadable PDF of the Characters Guide, click here.

For more information about licensing a production of The Wizard of Oz, visit The Wizard of Oz Collection on the Concord Theatricals website in the US or UK.

Header Image: Poster artwork for The Wizard of Oz (Artwork ©2019 by Subplot Studio)