Nonestic Promotion, Part 2: Didja Ever Hear of Oz?

While Ruth Plumly Thompson would eventually become frustrated at how little promotion Reilly & Lee did for the Oz books, they did make some attempts early on in her tenure as Royal Historian. One such promotion was a short play called A Day in Oz, or sometimes Scraps from Oz, distributed by the publisher to stores that sold the books. Thompson wrote the script, and Norman Sherred contributed four songs about characters: the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and Wizard of Oz. These were originally intended to be released on children’s records, but no one would buy them for that purpose. The sheet music for the Scarecrow’s song is included in the latest Baum Bugle, which is one reason I thought of writing about the play. As might be expected, the script is full of puns, rhymes, exaggerated excitement, and questions to the audience about whether they believe in Oz. There’s not much of a plot, mostly just the characters talking about themselves and planning a party. Souvenirs were distributed during the show. All the parts were played by local children. There are two known versions, both published in Sissajig and Other Surprises, one to promote The Hungry Tiger of Oz and the other Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz. It was first performed in 1925, presumably to advertise Lost King. Interestingly, the alterable scene with Jack in it also includes Pastoria, so it’s possible that part was adapted from an earlier version. Both include Dorothy, Ozma, the Scarecrow, Scraps, the Lion, and the Tin Man. The latter is combined with Tik-Tok for some reason, including his hy-phen-a-ted di-a-logue, even though they’re both mentioned separately in the opening poem. The Wizard is in the Jack scene, but he doesn’t sing his own song. Some of the jokes appear in books from around this time, like the Cowardly Lion eating the lion’s share of the birthday cake and the Expectacles from Hungry Tiger.

The scene promoting that book mentions the Vegetable Man, but he doesn’t actually appear.

In the opening, Oz is said to be “sixty-seven thousand leagues beyond the land of Never,” but whether that’s the one from Peter Pan is obviously not stated. The Scarecrow’s song mentions flying shoes, a popcorn mine, talking signs, walking lampposts, and that “you can pick a princess from a live rose stalk.” That last one is referring to Ozga from Tik-Tok, although that scene took place in the Rose Kingdom and not in Oz proper. Talking signs show up in Cowardly Lion.

I don’t recall any of Thompson’s books including walking lampposts, although there are flying lanterns in Fix City in Royal Book, and John R. Neill’s Wonder City refers to two walking lampposts being missing. I’ve seen the play performed twice, the first at the Oz Centennial Convention in 2000, where it was adapted to promote Gina Wickwar’s new Hidden Prince. I believe Eric Gjovaag played the Scarecrow and Amanda Spencer the Glass Cat. And at the Philadelphia Convention in 2016, we saw the Tiger version performed by college students at Liberty Place.

This entry was posted in Advertising, Characters, Gina Wickwar, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Music, Oz, Oz Authors, Plays, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Nonestic Promotion, Part 2: Didja Ever Hear of Oz?

  1. Pingback: Lions Are a Beast’s Best King | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: Heffalumps and Woozies | VoVatia

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