DPO presents Wizard of Oz with Orchestra
By Joe Aiello
“Dreams can come true again, when ev’rything old is new again.”
So goes the refrain from the song “Everything Old Is New Again,” as featured in the Broadway musical The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman. On Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 at 8p.m. in the Schuster Center, Music Director Neal Gittleman and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will prove that everything old is indeed new again. The proof is in this fourth program in the Kettering Health Network SuperPops Series, entitled Wizard of Oz with Orchestra.
The movie The Wizard of Oz premiered in 1939 and has been broadcast on television at least once a year since 1956. If you ask people how and when they first viewed the film, you’ll doubtless get a myriad of different replies. Younger audiences will no doubt say they first saw it shown on TV in its original black and white/color format. Some first saw it in black and white in its entirety because they didn’t have a color TV at the time. Others, such as myself, saw the original film in a movie theater. I saw it in the black and white/color format (and I won’t say when) at the old Loew’s Theater, which — by the way — stood approximately where the north side of the Schuster Center and the adjacent alley and parking lot sit today.
Is this relationship of the film’s history to the DPO’s history a coincidence? We’ll see. The probable connections are too many to be rejected out of hand. For instance:
Some producers have used music directly from the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon to provide a musical soundtrack for the visual portion of the film The Wizard of Oz, calling it Dark Side of the Rainbow. This has resulted in times during the film where it and the music from the album seem to link up. But Pink Floyd band members see any connection between the two media as a mere coincidence.
And just last week, the DPO presented The Music of Pink Floyd with Windborne. Is that a coincidence?
There was a time where the situation was rife for presenting modern, futuristic films in older, more elegantly dated venues. David Bukvic, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for the DPO, remembers going to see the movie 2001 in the RKO Albee Theater in Cincinnati. At the time, the film was the very essence of futurism. And the RKO Albee was a venue much like our own Victoria Theatre. The Albee featured two huge, identical marble staircases, walls on which oil paintings hung, a lounge adjoining the men’s room replete with stately furniture, and a 40-by-70-foot Czechoslovakian Maffersdorf rug, which some have referred to as the largest rug of its type in the world.
And the DPO will present Wizard of Oz with Orchestra in the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, the area’s finest state-of-the-art performance venue. Neal Gittleman will conduct the entire score to a digital version of the film as it projects on a large screen above the orchestra, providing orchestral accompaniment to the film with the soundtrack stripped of all orchestral music so only the actors’ dialogue and vocals remain. An old film in a futuristic venue. Another coincidence?
And history records that the DPO itself came into existence partly as the result of a paroxysm in the movie industry — the introduction of sound to film. Many musicians felt themselves economically pinched by the event. Paul Katz founded the DPO in the midst of the Great Depression to provide musicians who, because of the economic calamity, had been displaced from their jobs providing music lessons, playing at parties and social events, and — wait for it — providing accompaniment to silent films in local movie theatres. Another coincidence?
Some people have never seen the film The Wizard of Oz in a movie theater and, perhaps, never will. And it’s a shame because in the hierarchy of American Cinema, especially musical cinema, it ranks very high. “It is one of the most beloved films globally and in the United States,” Jonathan McNeal, manager of Neon Movies, states. “I was an avid collector of the film’s memorabilia,” recalls McNeal, “and I got into the movie business as a result of it.”
McNeal has met several of the film’s Munchkin characters and people who are very into its memorabilia. What makes the film so special and timeless? “It’s a great story that used groundbreaking technology. The moment when the film transforms from sepia-toned black-and-white film to color is magic.”
And groundbreaking technology in the form of digital film with music performed and synched to it live is what makes Wizard of Oz with Orchestra a magical experience. Another coincidence?
“Musicians lost their jobs when silent films became talkies,” notes Dave Bukvic. “Now musicians are keeping classic films alive. Sort of a throwback to the musical accompaniment of the old silent era, but with a bonus. This new synched digital approach adds a level to the film that brings back the way audiences originally saw it.”
And next season the DPO is scheduled to present Casablanca in the same manner. A coincidence? I think not. And as “Everything Old is New Again” says,
“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When ev’ry thing old is new again.”
See the Dayton Philharmonic’s Wizard of Oz with Orchestra Friday, February 17 & Saturday, February 18, 2012 at the Schuster Center, 8pm. Tickets: 937-228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com
Reach DCP freelance writer Joe Aiello at JoeAiello@DaytonCityPaper.com.