Monday, January 27, 2020

Opening Prayer - Part VI


After the tedious and talk-heavy second act, Baum seems reengaged for Act III, loading it with action, and multiple scene changes, as well as some daring special effects. But would an audience still be in their seats after two hours of boring dialogue and bad puns? Baum's spirited Act III seems a case of "too much, too late." 

Scene 1 - "The Forest of Fighting Trees"

The curtain rises on a "row of trees" stretching across the stage in the in-one position, "with movable branches, operated by men concealed behind the trunks." A forest backdrop hangs behind the animated trees, and "at extreme right the outline cabin of the Forest Witch, with practical door."

"Chorus of Fighting Trees"

We are here to guard the forest from intrusion
And to overwhelm our foes with dire confusion,
Let the stranger well beware
Ere he penetrate our lair,
Or our mighty limbs will meet him in conclusion;

Back! Back! For we attack
Our foes without the slightest hesitation.
Back! Back! The power you lack
To fight the fiercest trees in all creation.

It's nice to finally read a decent lyric from Baum. Did the novelty of this imaginative setting and non-traditional characters inspire him to do better work than the formulaic drivel he's been producing for so much of the score until now?

Dorothy and the Tin Woodman enter, the Scarecrow is not with them.

TIN WOODMAN: Oh Dorothy, have you no heart?

DOROTHY: Of course I have. I can feel it beating.

TIN WOODMAN: If mine could beat you could hear it and it would sound like a trolly [sic] car gong. But since I've had this new heart, Dorothy, I've discovered that I can't live without you. Oh Dorothy, come with me to my forest home and I will chop all the wood, if you'll get up and make the fires.

DOROTHY: Oh don't be silly. You said you wanted a heart so you could love your little Munchkin girl and now you come around offering it to me. You're a fickle man.

Baum's choice to make the Tin Woodman a horndog feels unsettling in comparison to the Tin Woodman of the book. Baum's willingness to sacrifice his beloved characters to obtain giggles for an adult audience belies the idea that it was the script doctors that warped his fairy tale into a vaudevillian romp. As creepy as it feels, the idea is clever, providing an adult's view of the Tin Woodman's sexual awakening—much like leprechaun Og's in Finian's Rainbow half a century later.
But watching the Tin Woodman get his "heart on" with every female character in the rest of Act III rather rubs one the wrong way.

DOROTHY:  I wouldn't have you or your heart if it was the last heart in the world and I was trying to fill a flush. Where is the Scarecrow?

The Tin Woodman says the last time he saw the Scarecrow, he was "trying to make a democrat believe that the trusts could not be controlled by law. He think he knows everything since he got his new set of brains . . ."  Dorothy exits to go find the Scarecrow. The Tin Woodman, alone, pines for female affection:

TIN WOODMAN: Ah, what is the use of being fitted out with a large pulsing heart, overflowing with affection, when there is no one to lavish it on? [. . .] if only I could get a little advice from Ella Wheeler Wilcox!

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I have yet to discover the specific joke in why the Tin Woodman wanted advice from American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox [1850-1919] but perhaps the joke is in reference to her book Poems of Passion (1883).  But without such advice, the Tin Woodman's own passion has only grown stronger.

When the Forest Witch emerges from her cabin, the Tin Woodman seizes another chance for love. He pleads, kneels down, and offers his heart to the Forest Witch.

FOREST WITCH: Keep your love. I've no use for it.

The Tin Woodman attempts to woo the witch further, but she explains she's too wicked to love anyone and sings her song "I'm Freakishly Wicked" to prove it.

I'm freakishly wicked,
I'm sneakishly wicked,
No one is so wicked as me
I'm charmingly wicked
Alarmingly wicked
No person more wicked could be.

You may stand in fearful attitudes before a bandit chief,
Or chirp in silly platitudes about a callous thief
The pirates and the franchise-grabbers seem as black as pitch
But there isn't one can hold a candle to this Wicked Witch.

After another verse and chorus the frustrated Tin Woodman asks: "Then you scorn my young love?"

FOREST WITCH: I scorn it with a deep and lasting scorn that would sear your heart if I could reach it.

Hit song from Florodora (1901).
The Witch grabs at the Tin Woodman's chest but he dodges from her clutch, just in time to make a topical joke on the hit song from the hit musical Florodora.

TIN WOODMAN: Ugh! But tell me pretty maiden, are there any more at home like you?

FOREST WITCH: Why don't you sing it?

TIN WOODMAN: I would, but the copyright hasn't expired yet. Isn't there anything around here that wears skirts that I can spring this trusting heart of mine on?

The Forest Witch retires into her cabin and we never see her again. This character seems to be inspired by the Wicked Witch of the West, but she plays no part in the plot or action other than being a romantic foil for the Tin Woodman.

Dorothy and the Scarecrow enter. Alas, the Scarecrow's new brains have made him "the grandest little wiseacre in the party" and almost as insufferable with his brains as the Tin Woodman is regarding his heart..

TIN WOODMAN: You ought to go down and see President Roosevelt. He's in your class.

This joke comparing the Scarecrow's brains to Teddy Roosevelt's has always been credited to Baum's script doctors, but it was clearly Baum's own. That said, Baum may have worried the reference was uncomfortable, as Roosevelt had only been president a matter of weeks, having attained the office upon the assassination of President McKinley. Baum has scribbled out the typewritten Roosevelt reference and inked in the name "Mark Hanna," the United States Senator from Ohio.

Baum's original "Teddy Roosevelt" joke from the 1901 script. CLICK TO ENLARGE
DOROTHY: Come, come, we're wasting time and we'll never get to Glinda the Good if we don't start. Which way do you think we ought to go?

TIN WOODMAN: Ask the Scarecrow. He's the official thinker of the bunch.

SCARECROW: Follow me and you can't go wrong. (Advances to trees, one of which strikes him with a branch and sends him tumbling back.)

FIGHTING TREES: Back! Back! (All wave branches.)

DOROTHY: Good gracious; what's that?

Deciding the Scarecrow's "thought waves" aren't going to solve the problem, the Tin  Woodman declares he can, "Get through without a ticket." He advances on the trees with upraised axe.


Back! Back! For we attack
Our foes without the slightest hesitation.
Back! Back! The power you lack
To fight the fiercest trees in all creation.

The Tin Woodman chops a limb from the center tree at which all the trees utter moans of pain. The Fighting Trees slide offstage right and left, disappearing into the wings. The Forest drop rises to reveal Scene 2 - "The Rocky Hill of the Hammerheads." Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman have remained onstage during the scene change. The Scarecrow asks, "But where are we?"

TIN WOODMAN: What's the matter—are those brains of yours off watch? I thought you were going to tell us all about it.
DOROTHY Here is a pathway up the rocks. Let's see where it leads to.
TIN WOODMAN: It looks like the rocky road to Dublin. (Starts to mount rocks when the HAMMERHEADS appear from behind rocks, darting here and there and changing places with one another during Chorus.)

"Song of the Hammerheads"

1st HALF: Well here's a lark
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: We should remark!
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: These ninnies think that they can pass our rocky hill.
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: But we're intent
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: To circumvent
2nd HALF: Ha, ha, ha!
1st HALF: All trespassing and we'll resent it with will.
ALL: We will . . .

The Hammerheads sing and dance two more rounds of their song and their number comes to a close. With a strong male chorus, this "Song of the Hammerheads" could have been a rousing number.

SCARECROW: Yes, they seem to be a bunch of knockers. But I think I can fix them.

TIN WOODMAN: Oh your thinker is in working order again, is it? You were about half out of your thoughts after the tree landed on you.

SCARECROW: I remember hearing that if you approach a wild animal and look it straight in the eye, you win.

TIN WOODMAN: How are you going to look anything straight in the eye? One of your eyes is upside down and the other one has a kink in it.

[ . . . ]

SCARECROW: Watch me! (Advances to the rocks and is knocked down by a shooting hand, rolling back to the others, who pick him up.)

TIN WOODMAN: If you get knocked out a few more times you will have to go to England to get a fight. Which eye did you try him with?

Unfortunately, Baum provides no description of the Hammerheads, but unlike those in the book, these seem to have shooting hands instead of shooting heads which belies the name of the characters. After his tumble, the Scarecrow wants to call it quits and return to the Emerald City.

DOROTHY: Oh, no, we must go on to Glinda the Good or I will never get back to Kansas. I wish I knew the charm of these silver shoes.

SCARECROW: What charm?

What charm, indeed! Dorothy has never told the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman about her shoes and has not mentioned them since she put them on early in the first act. The Scarecrow asks if the charm might be inside them so Dorothy takes them off.

TIN WOODMAN: There isn't so much charm about them now as there was when you had them on. Maybe you would call a bellboy by rubbing them like Alladin's [sic] wonderful lamp.

(She rubs them)

[ . . . ]

DOROTHY: Oh, dear, why can't I find that charm? Here I am, a thousand miles from home, standing around in my stocking feet looking for a hateful old charm that won't appear. 
Dorothy and the Silver Shoes from the original book (1900).

Dorothy, holding one shoe in each hand, sings and dances "The Stocking Song." The music for this number is not known to survive, but the verse fits the melody of the verse to Baum and Tietjens's "Love is Love" from their unproduced comic opera, The Octopus, though the last note of each stanza needs to be made a triplet for reasons you'll see below.

Oh, it's really quite provoking
While the charm we are invoking,
That my little tootsie-wootsies must go bare, bare, bare.

Though each foot has still a stocking,
Such a sight is very shocking,
And I hope no naughty man will dare to stare, stare, stare.


'Tis a horrid sight,
Yet my feet so light,
Go tripping and slipping quite merrily.

ALL: Quite merrily!

[ . . . ]


Yet I'll be discreet
While my stocking'd feet
Go tripping and skipping quite merrily!

ALL: Quite merrily!

Do not be dismayed
If you feel afraid
Why you need not look up, necessarily.

ALL: No, verily.

Dorothy knocks the heels of the shoes together three times as a little fillip to end the song, echoing the "dance, dance, dance" motif, accidentally discovering the charm of the silver shoes. Baum has combined the Silver Shoes and the Golden Cap—clicking the shoes together three times has called the Winged Monkeys.

WINGED MONKEYS: (heard without) Here—we—come.

The Winged Monkeys descend from the flies. This would be a major scenic effect, flying in multiple actors in Winged Monkey costumes. Only the Monkey Leader speaks, so perhaps the other monkeys would have been two dimensional?

MONKEY LEADER: (to Dorothy) We are the slaves of the silver shoes and whoever wears them can command us.

TIN WOODMAN: Oh, if I could only get those shoes on! I know a place where they have steins that high. (indicating.)

The Scarecrow asks if the monkeys could make him a cheese sandwich, but Dorothy stays focused on her goal.

DOROTHY: We want to go at once to the palace of Glinda the Good. How can you get us there?

MONKEY LEADER: We cannot carry you because the forest is too dense, but we can transport you in a balloon.

TIN WOODMAN: Where did you get the balloon?

MONKEY LEADER: It sailed down out of the sky and we captured it.

DOROTHY: Oh, it must be the balloon of the poor wizard, Oz. He is lost.

SCARECROW: He's as well off as he would be if he stayed in the Emerald City. They were getting ready to give him twelve hours to leave town.

Baum has provided an unfortunate demise for the poor wizard. Is the wizard wandering the Quadling Country, or a prisoner or plaything for the monkeys? Dorothy's matter-of-fact "He is lost" seems to indicate the wizard is dead.

Scientifically, such a demise for the wizard seems logical—how far can one really go in a hot-air balloon with no on-board heating source? But why would Baum choose to kill off the title character, and to do it "off-stage," at that? Couldn't the Wizard have rescued the trio from the Hammerheads? It would have given the actor another scene and a more important part. Never mind how disturbing the suggested "death by monkey" might seem to a child in the audience. But Dorothy and her friends accept the story with no further questioning.

TIN WOODMAN: Well, let's be on our way. Bring out your balloon.

(Balloon and basket swing in from the wings, guided by the winged monkey. All clamber in.)

DOROTHY: Now for Glinda and Kansas!

TIN WOODMAN: If we ever get to Glinda I'll try to worry along without Kansas.

(Balloon rises into flies. Dark change to scene 3.)

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I think the joke with Ella Wheeler Wilcox might refer to the type of cheery, optimistic advice her poems contained - “Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep, and you weep alone“. Far more familiar then than now!