4 Shows You Probably Haven’t Heard of (But Should)
These productions encompass my favorite types of plays and musicals-historicals set in the American Revolution and fantasies. I have a huge soft spot for fantasies set in Oz and Dragonlance and are very close to its source material.
4. Ben Franklin in Paris (1964) by Sidney Michaels (book and lyrics), Mark Sandrich, Jr (music) and Jerry Herman (2 songs)
With the hubbub on about Alexander Hamilton, perhaps this semi-fictional musical based on Benjamin Franklin’s life in Paris during the revolution, should be revived. I originally discovered the Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack in a secondhand music shop in the $5 bin. Unfortunately it had a short run on Broadway and there is little to nothing on the interwebs except for a few short songs, and a few bad video recordings. But from what I have heard, I would love to see this show presented.
3. The Woodsman (2012) by James Ortiz, and Edward W. Hardy (music)
A one act play based on “The Tin Woodsman of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. The play uses a Japanese style of puppetry called bunraku-same style that was performed for the C-3P0 puppet in Star Wars Episode 1:The Phantom Menace. It also has very minimal dialogue, which is mainly limited to the opening monologue, so for rest of the play actors utilize pantomime.
2. The Marvelous Land of Oz (1981) by Thomas W. Olson (book), Gary Briggle (lyrics), and Richard Dworsky (music)
Based on the L. Frank Baum novel of the same name, and second book in the Oz series. I love the Judy Garland/MGM version as much as the next person. (Although if you ask my brother, probably more-I watched it multiple times a day, every day, as a kid). This adaptation follows the novel very closely, and is one of the few adaptations that have had a male as (Spoilers!) both Ozma and Tip. I like this musical a bit better than “The Wizard of Oz” since it’s not as overly done as its predecessor, and who doesn’t love Jack Pumpkinhead?
1. The Last Trial (aka The Last Test, or The Raistlin Musical) (2014) by Anton Kruglov (composer) and Elena Khanpira (lyricist)
This is a Russian musical created by Anton Kruglov and his wife, Elena Khanpira, based on the Dragonlance “Legends” Trilogy (aka The “Twins” series) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. While following Raistlin’s major arcs, it drops Tasslehoff as a character and several of Tasslehoff and Caramon’s arcs. With the growing number of fantasy TV shows and movies-here’s looking at you Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones-it would be a great thing to see an English version here state side. You can watch (with English Subtitles here):
Photo: (L-R) Puppeteer Will Gallacher with James Ortiz and Eliza Martin Simpson in 'The Woodsman' Matthew Murphy