Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas...in OZ!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, December 2009 marks the first time I have an entire room (thank you Keith XOXOOX) devoted to my favorite pass time...my Wizard of Oz collection! It also marks the first time I have been able to combine it with my OTHER favorite pastime...Christmas Decorating!!!

Several years ago I began collection the Robert Tonner Oz dolls, with the intention of creating a giant "dollhouse" type Emerald City. Well, I started the project, even built the base for the display, but then life happened (lost job, found job, produced two musical, got fired....) and I never finished it. I was planning on unveiling it as a big Christmas display that year, complete with giant Christmas tree and doll scale decorations. Instead the dolls and props ended up in storage.

So, this year I decided, while it wouldn't be my huge, grand display I had originally imagined, I would still set something up in my Oz room using some of the stuff. Above is the main part of the display, and I must say I'm kind of proud of it!



Dozens of Oz themes ornaments cover the 3 foot Christmas tree at the center. Dorothy, Glinda, Scarecrow and other Oz characters look on as Santa Claus adds one final ornament to the tree. Santa is a regular guest at Oz parties. But Christmas is his special time of year. Thanks to Dorothy, the citizens of Oz are learning the TRUE meaning of Christmas, in addition to the part Santa plays.



Locasta, the Good Witch of the North, has the honor of being the tree top. She looks down upon the festivities with a smile of holiday and Ozzy delight! Mostly retired now, and having turned her ruling duties over to Glinda (who is now the Good Witch of BOTH the South AND North), she loves to come to the Emerald City Christmas party every year to perform this task.




The Tin Man introduces the Queen of the Field Mice to Gloria (left ) and Jinjur (right). Like many of the ladies in the Emerald City, both of these beauties have secret crushes on our "galvanized friend".





Trixie Tryfle, a former waitress turned Emerald City hair dresser, cuddles Dorothy's pink kitten, Eureka, as the Cowardly Lion finds his Christmas gifts. Ever since their first meeting at the Wash and Brush Company, the Lion lets no one else style his mane.







One of Santa's elves tries to convince the Woozy that not all Christmas gifts are for eating. He doesn't seem to be succeeding! Billina, the yellow hen, looks on. The special Noah's Ark was hand carved by the Tin Man as a gift for Dorothy. She read him the Bible story one night and he loved it! Dorothy doesn't know this yet, but next year he's going to carve her a complete Nativity scene! Shhhhhh.....


The Scarecrow receives his very own copy of Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz! This is a very popular book in this country!!! An elf also shows Scarecrow a little marionette he made. Santa's head elf is at his side in case his holiday boss should need her. And Toto (at Dorothy's feet) keeps an eye out for any dropped Christmas cookies.



The China Princess, China Milkmaid (and her cow!) and Mr. Joker are also in attendance, and very careful to stay out of every one's way! the Milk Maid forgave Dorothy and her friends years ago for that mishap in the Dainty China Country when the first met.









In another part of the palace, Jellia Jamb, Cayke the Cookie Cook, Munchkin Margaret and two of Santa's elves try to reassure jack Pumpkinhead that pumpkin pie doesn't come from any of his former heads. However, Jack doesn't look too convinced....

In the land of the Winkies, the Wicked Witch of the West, who apparently DID NOT melt (Thank you Wicked), jealously watched the scene in her crystal ball and tries to plot the end of Christmas (she, the Grinch and Scrooge were all good friends at one time. Little does she know they're reformed!) Nikko and the Winkie General silently look on. She has also noticed that Dorothy has recovered the Ruby Slippers she lost on her first trip home from Oz. If the Witch and her court weren't in hiding, there may be trouble in Oz!

The display is far from my original vision of a few years ago. But I plan on making this one grow every year. I have already begun work on creating several new Oz characters that Tonner doesn't make, and plans for a "royal court" scene using these dolls and other non-Oz Tonner dolls redone as Oz cast members.

The rest of the Oz room is also set up and looks like this:




I love my Oz room. The sad part is that there is still a closet FULL of stuff I didn't have room for!!! But I do love it. I sat in it and read while Keith was working in his studio. It was so nice and cozy with the Christmas lights on. Having this room for my Oz collection is a dram come true!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Christmas Carol....

Last Wednesday Keith and I saw the final dress rehearsal for this year's production of A Christmas Carol at The Guthrie in Minneapolis. We are dear friends with the family of one of the little girls in the show and we were given tickets by them.

I saw A Christmas Carol at The Guthrie about 10+ years ago, and hated it. A Lot. So the thought of sitting through basically the same production wasn't an appealing idea to me. Keith had never seen it, so he didn't really have an opinion on the matter. But we both wanted to see dear little Emily very badly, so there was no question as to whether we would go or not. Plus, with tickets being $70 - $20 each, seeing it for free was a no brainer!
This years production is being billed as "a brand new 90-minute adaptation perfectly suited for families of all sizes, theatergoers young and old. " Yet, the tickets are still $70 - $20 each, which doesn't seem family friendly at all. But I digress....
I am a HUGE fan of the Dicken's book, so I am very critical of film and stage versions of the story. My favorite is the 1984 TV version starring George C. Scott as "Scrooge". I have never seen a stage version that I liked, including the one I was in at The Mall of America, where I played the "Ghost of Christmas Present" and "Young Marley". Terrible production.

So, my expectations were not high for the final dress at The Guthrie. I knew Emily would be adorable and very good in the show (and of course she was). But as soon as I walked in and saw the same "shadowbox" set with the giant handless clock on it that I saw years before, I knew it was going to be a long night. To my surprise, the show was better than the previous one I saw, however is still wasn't what I would have liked to see.

TV actor Peter Michael Goetz was a competent "Scrooge". His opening scenes in the money lending office were his best in the play. As with many actors who play the part, I never really felt his reformation. He simply said his lines the same way, but with a smile on his face. With that said, Mr. Goetz was able to make me cry...when he accepted a hug from his nephew Fred, played by Rober Berdahl, on Christmas morning. The moment was brilliantly played by both actors. I had higher hopes from Mr. Goetz after seeing his first scene, but sadly he didn't follow through. He started off on a nice progression, but stayed stagnant through most of the play. I saw pain in his eyes over the situation with his younger self and "Belle" (played by John Skelley and Prentis Standridge), but the same pain wasn't there when he witnessed the pathetic Crachit family later on. He simply seemed bored instead.
And speaking of bored, let's discuss the performance of Charity Jones as the "Ghost of Christmas Past"....
Many years ago, I saw Ms. Jones play "Belle" in a stage version of the original French fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. She was stunning. I simply fell in love with her performance. Then a short time later she played "Glinda" in a stage version of Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. She was perfect....poised, beautiful, wise. She became a Twin Cities favorite of mine. So, all these years later, when I saw she was playing the Christmas Past Ghost, I got very excited...only to be let down with a boring, uninspired performance. She seemed like she didn't want to be there. Her lines were simply spoken and her face blank. It was as if a Stepford Wife had taken over the role. Her costume was odd...looking more like a goofy porcelain doll than a "spirit" of any kind. I was greatly disappointed in her all around. When waiting for Emily after the show, I saw Ms. Jones leaving. Normally I would have killed for the chance to meet her and gush over her. But not that night....instead I just glared.
Steven Epp played "Jacob Marley" and, unfortunately, "The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come". As "Marley", he came off as an angry biker. No misery, no remorse, no repentance. Just anger. As "The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come", he was distracting. Having seen the same actor play the first ghost we meet, then having him play the last just didn't work. Not to mention the fact that the costumer gave him giant "Frankenstein" boots to make him taller....
Lee Mark Nelson as "Bob Cratchit" was my favorite of the evening. I now have a HUGE crush on this man. He was funny when he needed to be funny, pathetic and his breakdown at Tiny Tim's funeral was very real and painful. I wish he had been in the show more!!! he played the family man perfectly. he had a wonderful scene where all his children jumped him and wrestled him to the ground. He seemed right at home surrounded by this gaggle of kids. I just wanted to hug him!

But we were there to see Emily Albert Stauning, the future stage star of the Twin Cities. This is a little girl who simply "gets it", no matter what she's playing. I have dreams if he playing Dorothy for me in the RSC version of The Wizard of Oz someday. I love this kid. She has a focus on stage that most adults don't have. She is a professional and a trooper. I wish there had been a role in the A Christmas Carol she could have done to show her talent, but little girl roles are very limited. She was creepy and pathetic as "Want", the disgusting little child brought by the Ghost of Christmas Present. And as a street urchin, no one did a better job. Seriously, this kid is perfect in everything she does! I want to clone her for MY daughter!!!!
Overall the evening was fun. As always, it was great to see the Stauning family. They are wonderful friends. It was fun to see a final dress at The Guthrie. You could hear the director giving notes to the stage manager. All the production photos I've posted here were taken that night. I just wish that The Guthrie, which uses Dicken's novel as the their bread and butter for the Christmas season, would get the story right....just once.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Oz Room....phase 01

Well, we have the majority of our stuff moved into the new place. You never really appreciate just how much "junk" you can accumulate when you are in one place for 9 years. It's mind blowing!

But, last night after moving a load of stuff over to the new place, Keith and I went our separate ways and worked unpacking our individual areas. Him to his artist studio and me to my Oz room. He had the day off this past Monday, so he's WAY ahead of me.

The first part of the evening consisted of simply trying to get IN the room. There were boxes and furniture everywhere. So, I shoved this and moved that and eventually got to where I could move around and not knock anything over! Next, I washed the display case in the room. I've had it since I was 16 and it's a HUGE piece of antique furniture. A co-worker of my dad's gave it to me, his wife not needing it. She "rescued it from an old department store in Milwaukee years and years ago.

Once the case was cleaned up, I found the box containing my Franklin Mint Oz dolls and started to unpack them. These are the one set of items I knew where they were going and they were in one of the largest boxes. A few hours later, after primping, straightening up and reposing the dolls, they made it into the case, the lid went on it and I had my first Oz collectibles displayed! I was tired, but excited. I wanted t do more, but sadly bedtime was calling (being a "school night" and all...) so I had to close the room down and head to bed.

Tonight we are going to see our favorite little girl play in "A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theatre, and tomorrow night I am hanging out with my mom. So I won't be able to get back into the Oz room until at least Friday...which is slowly killing me every time I think about it!!!! I can't wait to finish and start enjoying my stuff in it's new space. Hopefully this weekend will be devoted to unpacking and both Keith and I can get a big chunk of our stuff in it's place. The room currently looks like this, so you can see there's a lot left to do!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A little about me...

My name is John Nickolaus. I'm 39 years old and live in St. Paul Minnesota with my husband of 3 years, Keith Johnson.

I have a HUGE passion for all things OZ. Books, dolls, statues, Christmas ornaments, poster/prints.....you name it. I especially LOVE Oz stage productions, and memorabilia from them are a large part of my collection. I am currently researching and writing an article about the very first stage production of The Wizard of Oz to use the score from the 1939 MGM film. I hope to submit it to the Baum Bugle and hopefully have it published!

I've collected Oz since I was very little, age 4-5 is what sounds right. Seeing the movie for the first time with my mom is literally my oldest memory. I remember sitting on the floor with her, I must have been about 2 years old, and I remember Dorothy leaving Munchkinland and my mom telling me who she was. That's all I remember, but I remember it very clearly....and it's a great memory!

Keith and I recently moved. in fact, was are STILL moving! I love our new little house. it was built in 1950 and has been owned by one family only. It's adorable. We have a lot of stuff, so it's been a tight squeeze, but we are getting through it. I can't wait to get my Oz stuff set up! And, decorate it for Christmas!!!!

Speaking of Christmas, that's my OTHER collection. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!! I have more decorations than I know what to do with. I start decorating the day after Thanksgiving and it usually takes me that entire weekend. I collect Nativity scenes, so I usually have 3-4 of them displayed every year. I can't wait to get started!!!!

Well, I guess that's all for now. More to come later!!!!