Seventy-five years have gone by since Judy Garland tucked Toto under her arm and headed for Oz.
This weekend, we get to celebrate that celluloid moment in two ways. You can watch the original film at the historic Babcock Theatre on Sunday at 7:20 p.m. while you hear from Senior High graduate Robert Elder about why director John Waters based his life’s work on a line from the film.
The other opportunity is to see a staged retelling of the Oz story in a production produced by Backyard Theatre. “The Other Side of Oz” was written by Dwayne Yancey, a newspaper man in Virginia who writes plays in his spare time.
As a kid I tried to create scenes from the film with the neighborhood gang. The movie aired every
fall on TV just before Halloween. I loved playing my favorite character, the scarecrow, and accompanying Dorothy and her buddies to Oz. We were always looking for something to use as the yellow brick road, turning to fabric and once using gold spray paint.
I’ve never seen “The Wizard of Oz” on the big screen, and to see it at the Babcock Theatre will be a treat.
Director Rebecca Spring had a similar obsession.
“I was 3 years old when the film was celebrating its 50th anniversary and I remember watching it on TBS. I was singing all of the songs.”
Spring, who moved to Billings three years ago after finishing her master’s degree in anthropology, is making her directorial debut on this show, which is not a musical.
“It’s definitely just fun and funny. It’s like a quirky twist on your favorite character. You’re looking at how they could be,” Spring said.
In true Backyard Theatre style, the show will be staged in Amanda and Matt McCave’s backyard at 3724 Gymnast Way. Shows are 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. All are welcome and admission is pay what you can. You may want to bring a blanket or lawn chair. Soda and water will be available to purchase.
The idea behind the Backyard Theatre group is that good theater doesn’t have to be performed in a formal setting. McCave and Wanda Morales founded the company last year and have produced several shows, including “Lysistrata” last summer in the McCave yard and “Toad Poems” last fall at Limber Tree Yoga Studio.
“It should still be art for the sake of art,” Spring said. “We’re not a nonprofit and we don’t have a board. There is freedom, but limited budgets.”
The Billings community has been supportive of the theater group by attending productions, making donations and helping find costumes. Some people have even offered to lend their backyard for productions.
“The Other Side of Oz” has the Wicked Witch of the North, played by Amanda McCave, speed dating and other funny twists.
“It doesn’t go as you would expect,” Spring said.
And neither did my backyard productions, but that’s half the fun.