Over the years, the world of Entertainment has always had a great reputation of giving back to those in need. One of those great moments happened in the Fall of 1995 where some of the greatest performers in Entertainment joined together to raise money for Children’s Defense Fund with a one night only concert presentation of the family favorite The Wizard of Oz.
Founded in 1973 by Marian Wright Edelman, the Children’s Defense Fund is a non for profit NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND organization that helps young children get a jump start at life.
The all star cast of THE WIZARD OF OZ IN CONCERT featured an incredible lineup of the best of Broadway, Film, TV, and the Music industry including….
Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Jewel as “Dorothy”,
Grammy nominated folk singer Jackson Browne as “The Scarecrow”,
The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey as “The Tin Man”,
Tony winning versatile stage and screen actor Nathan Lane as “The Cowardly Lion”,
Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey as “The Wizard” (a role he later originated in the prequel Broadway blockbuster WICKED The Musical),
the late soulful singing sensation Natalie Cole as “Glinda The Good Witch of the North”,
Oscar nominated actress Debra Winger as “The Wicked Witch of the West”,
the legendary stage and screen actress Lucie Arnaz Official as “Aunt Em”,
The Boys’ Choir of Harlem (under the direction of the late Dr. Walter Turnbull) as “The Munchkins”,
Accompanied by a full orchestra, the concert (held at David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center) was set up as a “Reader’s Theatre” with the actors on stools with music stands and microphones. It featured an abbreviated script featuring all the beloved songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg that we know in love from the original 1939 MGM film (including OVER THE RAINBOW, DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD, IF I ONLY HAD A (BRAIN, HEART, THE NERVE), WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD, and more). It also included the swingin’ number THE JITTERBUG that was cut from the film before it was even released.
In addition, several songs were rearranged to showcase each of the singer’s talents. For Jackson Browne’s rendition of IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN, the song was performed as a folk tempo ballad. For Roger Daltry’s rendition of IF I ONLY HAD A HEART, the song was performed with a Rock N’ Roll tempo which Daltry also included some of his WHO persona that included swinging his cord microphone. For Natalie Cole’s rendition of OPTIMISTIC VOICES (YOU’RE OUT OF THE WOODS), it was performed as a soulful, blues, and gospel version (accompanied by Dr. John on Piano).
In addition, the concert also features special guest appearances by…
The late blues singer Pheobe Snow performing a stirring blues reprise of IF I ONLY HAD A (BRAIN, HEART, THE NERVE)
legendary singer Ronnie Spector performed a Rock N’ Roll reprise of DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD (HAIL, HAIL).
THE WIZARD OF OZ IN CONCERT was seen on PBS and later VH1 in 1996-1997. It was later released as a Live CD and Video. Both renditions are currently out of stock and was never released on DVD. Luckily thanks to YouTube, the concert has been found.
Who remembers watching this concert?
FUN FACT: Broadway favorite Julia Murney who later went on to play “The Wicked Witch of the West” (named “Elphaba) in WICKED was also part of this concert. She appeared as one of the Female Ensemble members in the sparkly Ruby red dress. It was one her first major professional performance gigs in NYC.
The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True was a 1995 television musical performance based on the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Digitally transferred from VHS
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