Follow the yellow brick road
Not very long ago I went to see the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, School of Rock, which has received excellent reviews from the critics. The show has tremendous energy and the children, especially those playing instruments, are wonderful but I came away feeling a little dissatisfied. This sense of disappointment came not as a result of poor performances but from the lack of any real depth or drama. This week our boys having been performing The Wizard of Oz in the school theatre. I was in the audience on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening and I shall be there tonight for their final show. Despite its fairy tale quality, this is a musical with real depth.
The key figure, of course, is Dorothy who so desperately wants to leave the Land of Oz and return to Kansas, an altogether drearier place. It is, though, her new found friends - Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion - who give this musical its moral direction. Each of these characters believes that he lacks a quality essential to a successful, fulfilled life. Scarecrow, remarkably, can speak and move but he does not have a brain. Tin Man is handsome and brave but he has no heart. Poor lion is regal, powerful and possessed of a wonderful roar but he is totally devoid of courage. These three are so desperate to acquire the qualities they lack that they will face great danger - Jitterbugs and the Wicked Witch of the West - and join Dorothy to march along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. The Munchkins have told them that there they will find the great Wizard of Oz who might grant them their wishes.
The four intrepid friends carry out the Wizard's order to kill the Wicked Witch and return to the Emerald City expecting their reward from the great Oz. Instead they discover that he is nothing more than a confidence trickster from Omaha. This charlatan is not a psychiatrist, a brain surgeon or a psychologist but he does possess great wisdom. He has seen what we, the audience have also seen. Scarecrow is intelligent, Tin Man is full of love and Lion is wonderfully courageous. The problem is that their lack of self-esteem prevents them from seeing this. The Wizard of Oz overcomes their crippling self-doubt by giving them tangible symbols of the qualities they already possess. Tin Man receives a watch in recognition of his generosity and good service, Lion is awarded a medal for his bravery and Scarecrow is presented with a diploma, which enables him to succeed Oz and rule the kingdom with justice and wisdom. In short, Oz gives them the wonderful gift of self-confidence.
The yellow brick road does eventually take Dorothy back to her aunt and uncle in Kansas but, more importantly, it takes Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion to a place where they finally see themselves as others see them. Frank Baum's great story shows us that happiness, self-confidence and fulfilment are not to be found anywhere other than within each one of us.
Friday 17 March 2017