Las Vegas Sun

January 20, 2018

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Musical is tribute to ‘Wizard of Oz’ composer


S.A. Music co.

Harold Arlen, shown here in an undated photo, was enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. He won an Oscar in 1939 for his “Wizard of Oz” score.

If You Go

  • What: Wizard: The Musical Journey of Oz Composer Harold Arlen
  • When: Opens Saturday; 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
  • Where: Greek Isles’ Star Theatre
  • Tickets: $49.95 to $69.95; 737-5540

Sun Archives

Columnist Jerry Fink

Beyond the Sun

Convention Center Way becomes the Yellow Brick Road for the next few weeks, ringing with the sounds of Harold Arlen.

“Wizard: The Musical Journey of Oz Composer Harold Arlen” begins a six-week run at the Greek Isles on Saturday.

“Harold’s name is not as well-known as Irving Berlin or George Gershwin or Cole Porter,” says George Bugatti, the Las Vegas singer who wrote the musical. “But his catalog is as impressive.”

Arlen wrote such timeless classics as “Stormy Weather,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” “Old Black Magic” and “One for My Baby.” But he’s best known for the music from “The Wizard of Oz.”

If he’d just written “Over the Rainbow,” he’d have been assured of his place in the Great American Songbook.

Arlen was enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. He died in 1986 at age 81.

“Over the Rainbow” won an Oscar in 1939 and became Judy Garland’s signature tune. It was rated the No. 1 song in the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Songs of the Century” list and the American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Songs” list.

“Wizard: The Musical Journey of Oz Composer Harold Arlen” has been touring the country for the past 18 months, making stops in 22 cities. Now it is Las Vegas’ turn.

The show takes place in the studios of a fictitious radio station, WZRD, and covers three phases of Arlen’s career — The Cotton Club, Broadway and films.

“On the road we do it in three acts,” Bugatti says. “Here we do an hour and 20 minutes, straight through.”

Bugatti collaborated with Nigel Wright, who was musical producer and director for the first two seasons of “American Idol” and produced records for many Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Sunset Boulevard” and the film version of “Phantom of the Opera.”

“I got Nigel to help conceptualize the show,” Bugatti says. “He came to my house for three days and shaped what the show would look like. He left, and I wrote it.”

The cast includes the composer’s son, Sam Arlen, who is a saxophonist, and the Three Crooners, Bugatti, Alistair Tober and Johnny K.

Sam Arlen, 49, hosts the show, which includes 11 minutes of home movies shot by his father behind the scenes in the filming of “Wizard of Oz.”

The musical is booked in Las Vegas for six weeks with an option for another six weeks.

Bugatti says he hopes the show eventually will be made into a TV special and make it to Broadway.

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