We're Off To Be The Wizard!

Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has long had its raucous, adult-rated, fan-generated sideshow. Other opportunities for active involvement with classic films include the often campy "Sing-A-Long Sound of Music" and, most recently, the family-friendly "Sing-A-Long Wizard of Oz," which is making a national tour stop at the Greek Theatre on Saturday.

This 2-year-old event, conceived by Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago, includes a digitally restored big-screen version of Victor Fleming's 1939 MGM classic and good-humored audience activities for all ages.

On-screen icons and lyrics guide audience members through the musical numbers and cue them to accompany the action with booing, hissing, barking (for Toto), bubble-blowing, kazoo-tooting, wand-waving and ratchet-rattling (this last whenever the Tin Man creaks).

"Some people can practically quote the entire movie," said Chicago-based theater producer Jim Glaub, who will be the show's comic emcee here.

To make such energetic participation possible, each ticketholder receives the necessary equipment, including a beribboned magic wand, in a "Perform-A-Long Fun Pack" as they enter the theater.

Glaub's job is to explain how it all works, talk about the making of the film and point out such glitches as the visible string that holds the Cowardly Lion's tail and how the length of Dorothy's hair changes during her first scene with the Scarecrow.

"On the big screen you get to notice things more. It's a continuity nightmare," he said.

The costume contest that takes place before the screening is a major part of the evening. Everyone is encouraged to come as their favorite Oz character, and creativity counts. Glaub, who has been emceeing the show for a year, looks forward to audience inventiveness.

"One couple came as a giant pair of ruby slippers," he said. "A father came as a giant yellow brick road, and his daughter was the witch's house. We had 20 people come as a group dressed as citizens of the Emerald City, and I love to see the babies dressed up as lions and the little kids who come as Dorothy and Toto." (Real Totos should stay at home.)

Glaub says his favorite part, however, is watching today's audiences react as audiences did decades ago when the film makes its sudden shift from black-and-white to color.

"It's kind of reassuring," he said. "All the oohs and ahs -- it wows them every time."