Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Opening Prayer - Part IV



Act II

Scene 1 – “The Gates of the Emerald City.”

The Guardian of the Gate is discovered alone, standing near a large box of spectacles by a gateway. This character is a combination of two characters from the book, the Guardian of the Gate (seen at left) and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers (seen below).

In the script the Guardian acquires the soldier's green whiskers, and he tags along with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman for most of Act II, and he shows up again at the end of Act III.




The Guardian sings “I’m Here to Keep the People Out,” later renamed “The Guardian of the Gate.” 

I’m here to keep the people in and keep them out.
For none can thro’ the portals pass while I’m about
Beyond’s the Emerald City where the Wizard rules in state,
And I’m the man that guards the gate, the guardian of the gate.

The gate, the gate, the gate. the gate
The glitt'ring, glist'ning gate.
However grand and fine you be
However humble don't you see,
You've got to get the key of me—
The guardian of the gate!

(Enter Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman)

DOROTHY:
Well, here we are at last!

SCARECROW:
Yes, here we are in the park. There’s the greenhouse and this old boy with the emerald alfalfa on his lunch room will probably make us keep off the grass.

I’m sure Baum thought the Scarecrow’s joke-filled line clever, but it’s not good stage dialogue. The sentence reads okay, but the cadence is off. There’s nowhere for the actor to breathe. No matter how well enunciated, the line would be hard to understand spoken on stage, especially in the pre-microphone era. Worse still, there are five jokes buried in the single run-on sentence. If anyone laughed at the first or second joke, the latter three would go unheard, obscured by the laughter. This is the sort of problem that necessitates the eventual script doctors.

After the Guardian of the Gate tells the Ozzy trio that if they are “peddlers, canvassers or book-agents they will have to go around to the rear gate,” the Tin Woodman launches into another of Baum’s dense and impenetrable speeches:

TIN WOODMAN:
No, we’re not going to weaken now. We may do a lot of queer things but the one thing we absolutely and positively decline to do is to weaken at this stage of the game. We demand an audience with Mr. Oz. I represent the tin trust and my weedy friend with the open countenance is a commissioner from the mattress trust. This young lady represents one of the great Sunday newspapers and intends to ask Oz how he enjoys the wizard business and take six or eight photographs of him while he is answering him [sic]. If she can catch him eating his breakfast or lounging in his pajamas, all the better.

Speeches like that make one wonder if Baum was expecting to be paid by the word.

The Scarecrow is still fixated on the Guardian’s green whiskers. 

SCARECROW:
You don’t see ’em as bad as this even in Kansas, do you? (Handling Guardian’s green whiskers) If you could take Willie back there with you he’d be governor inside of a year. He must be a brother to the long, Sutherland seven-haired sisters [sic].

The Scarecrow’s garbled joke makes reference to the “Seven Sutherland Sisters,” a singing group from the 1880s to early 1900s that performed with Barnum and Bailey.
 
The Seven Sutherland Sisters and their 37 feet of hair.
The sisters collectively sported over thirty-seven feet of hair. I hope it’s the brainless Scarecrow, and not Baum, that is getting his words out of order in that line of dialogue.

The Guardian fits Dorothy and her friends with spectacles so they won’t be “blinded by the splendor of the city.” The Tin Woodman suggests the Scarecrow should be given “field glasses.” Sometimes Baum’s jokes are actually good.


Scene 2 – “The Throne Room of Oz.”

“Walls covered by mystic emblems. —Large vacant throne in center, masked by green at back, shaped like a pair of out-stretched silver wings. —Chorus of astrologers, witches, necromancers, sorcerers, etc. in background and either side of the great throne.”

The Guardian leads Dorothy and her companions into the throne room. He stays with them during their audience with the Wizard. The chorus, as described above, sings:
Now, who thus dares to penetrate
The throne room of our master great?
The wise are those who hesitate
To aggravate this potentate!
Should you to see his face aspire
He’ll gratify your rash desires; [sic]
Yet strangers always rouse his ire
And oft expire before they retire!

DOROTHY:
Which of those queer looking frights is the wonderful wizard?

The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman join Dorothy in mocking the attendants. While the assorted magic workers hums a reprise of their chorus, the Wizard’s voice announces, “I am coming!” and a great head appears above the throne.

SCARECROW: We’re going to have a full moon, ain’t we?

DOROTHY: Hush! You will anger him and then he won’t send me back to Kansas.

TIN WOODMAN:
I don’t think he could send anybody anywhere. Did you ever see such a swelled head?

 The Wizard and Chorus of Magic Workers sing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

MAGIC WORKERS:
Oh, he is the wonderful wizard of Oz,
The wizard of Oz is he,
There isn’t a juggle can cause him a struggle,
He’s a marvel of mystery!
He’s practiced in sorcery, magical lore
Is never a bother to him anymore,
He’s dazzled and frazzled the jays by the score,
He’s the wonderful wizard of Oz.
OZ (as Head):
Hear me! Fear me!
Never dare to queer me
I’m the greatest necromancer ever was!
All my deeds with magic reek,
I’m the whole thing so to speak,
I’m the wonderful wizard of Oz!
MAGIC WORKERS:
Hear him, fear him;
Never dare to queer him,
He's the greatest necromancer ever was,
All his deeds with magic reek,
He's the whole thing, so to speak,
He's the wonderful wizard of Oz. 

Dorothy asks the great head to send her back to Kansas. “I never grant favors without some return,” the head responds. “What can you do for me?” Little does the Wizard realize that he just gave Dorothy an excuse to perform.

DOROTHY:
Oh, good gracious! I can’t do anything—except sing and dance a little bit.
OZ (as Head):
Then sing and dance while I think over your request.

The Great Head vanishes and Dorothy sings:

Oh, I long to be in Kansas
Where the flowers and blizzards blow,
Don’t you know
How they blow
In Kansas?
Where the fatted pigs are blooming
And the girls are unassuming,
Do you think
You would wink
In Kansas?
[Etc.]

Dorothy dances while she sings the chorus: 

Yet I long to be in Kansas
For the place is home to me,
I’m as free as a flea,
In Kansas.
Where the scent of corn bread rises
And the pumpkin in the pies is—
I am gay
All the day
In Kansas.

Advertisement for Madame Yale cosmetics.
After the number, the form of a lovely lady appears on the throne. “Here comes Madame Yale!” cries the Tin Woodman. Madame Yale was a purveyor of beauty treatments, anti-aging creams, and an early advocate of cosmetics.

SCARECROW:
Introduce me to your friend. This is the only live one I’ve seen in the Palace. I wonder if it’s Mrs. Oz. He’s got an awful face to cop out a queen like that for himself.

The Wizard explains he is “ever-changing” and has “the power to assume any form.”

Baum clearly wanted the lengthy scene to be spectacular—he even preserves all four of the Wizard’s transformations from the book, though he gives no hint as to how the effects should be staged. But the long scene would have been much stronger if Dorothy and her friends had been awestruck by the Wizard’s transformations rather than joke and poke fun at them. The cynical, mocking humor undercuts the spectacle. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman’s jibes would have had much more power, and been a lot funnier, if they came only after the Wizard was exposed as a humbug.

After much banter, the Scarecrow finally asks for brains. The wizard refuses the request and the chorus of magic-workers softly sings: 

Alas for the man, who has little in his noddle that he knows!
He’s under a ban and is called a rattle-pate where’er he goes.
[Etc.]
 The Lady disappears and is replaced by a huge, crab-like beast. 

DOROTHY:
O-o-o-oh! What’s that!

SCARECROW:
It looks like a deviled crab.

The Tin Woodman makes his request for a heart while the magic workers sing:
When you love, love, love in mad delirium,
When to love, love, love, that’s quite sincere you come . . .
[Etc.] 

During the softly sung chorus the Beast disappears, replaced by a glowing ball of fire, and the magic workers silently withdraw to the wings. What follows is one of Baum’s best scenes. Not only does the script tie into the music, but, like the Cowardly Lion’s scene, Baum is writing situational humor and stage action. 

OZ (as Voice):
Yes, love is madness. You are better off without a heart. Your request is refused.

TIN WOODMAN: (Weeping)
There! That’s the best I get after coming all these miles to see this old fakir. I might as well have stayed in the woods cutting down trees. Here I don’t even cut any ice. (Stops suddenly with mouth open, tries to close mouth with hands, waves arms, etc.)

DOROTHY:
Well, it is a pity that the poor woodman cannot have his heart after taking that long journey.

SCARECROW:
Yes, now he won’t have the heart to go home again.

DOROTHY:
Why, whatever is the matter with him?

SCARECROW:
What a frank, open countenance he has! It looks like the LaSalle Street tunnel!

DOROTHY:
Oh, I know! He has been crying and his jaws have rusted again. Get the oil-can quick.

SCARECROW:
It keeps me busy rushing the can for this fellow. Here you are. These joints can’t be allowed to stay open all night! (Oils Tin Woodman, etc.)

The Scarecrow finally notices Oz has become a ball of fire. "Why, you're all lit up, ain't you? . . . Don't he make the quickest moves, though? He's liable to be an apple dumpling the next time we look at him."

For no particular reason Dorothy removes her spectacles. "Why this is funny. My eyes are not dazzled a bit without these glasses. (To guardian) You're a fuzzy old faker."
GUARDIAN:
Put ' em on, for heaven's sake. You'll all be blinded.
The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman remove their glasses, too.

GUARDIAN:
I'll not stay and see you killed. (Rushes off.)

TIN WOODMAN:
This is a fake.

DOROTHY:
It looks that way. (Runs forward and overturns a screen behind the throne, discovering OZ and the props he has used to represent him. Lights up.) Why what's all this?

TIN WOODMAN:
(Raising axe over Oz.) Throw up your hands!

OZ:
Oh, dear. I am Oz, the Great and Terrible, but please don't use your axe and I'll tell you all about it.
SCARECROW:
Somebody must have turned down the gas on that ball of fire. What are all these. Have you been stringing us.

The Scarecrow's last two lines suggest he's examining the Wizard's props and based on the pun in the last line, probably found they were operated by strings. But Baum has provided no such explanation.

DOROTHY:
What do you mean? Aren't you the Wonderful Wizard?
OZ:
Oh, mercy! Don't you talk so loud or some of my people may overhear you. No, I'm only supposed to be a wizard. I'm only a common man.

SCARECROW: 
Just like the rest of the wizards! What a lovely bunch of suckers we were to come pining through the woods to get our fortunes told by this geezer!


Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

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