Beloit, Wis. — The BIFF Silent Film Showcase sponsored by BMO Harris Bank has been the centerpiece of the Beloit International Film Festival since its inception, and this year’s production will be a “Wiz of a Wiz” according to Rock River Philharmonic Music Director Robert Tomaro.
Following on the success of last year’s sold-out production of the silent “The Phantom of the Opera,” Tomaro and his friends are back, this time with an original music score and a new production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The program is built around the first silent film version of the story, but it may not be the Wiz you know.
Fourteen years before Judy Garland skipped down the yellow brick road, Hollywood came out with a very wild, very crazy silent film of The Wizard of Oz. Lost since then, Dr. Tomaro will revive it for BIFF with one performance at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Beloit College’s Eaton Chapel.
Tomaro’s original score will be complemented by songs such as If I Only Had a Brain and We’re Off to See the Wizard, selections from the Broadway musicals The Wiz and Wicked, and a memorable closing tribute to Judy Garland with Over the Rainbow. “This new moshed-up romp will have you rolling in the aisles,” the Maestro promises.
The film will be presented without intermission and will be preceded by a silent cartoon and period newsreel with musical support from the ensemble.
BIFF will welcome back two principal artists from the “Phantom” production with soprano Gaia Galvan, whose portrayal of “Christine” last year is still the talk of the town, and organist Robert Rub, whose performance on organ rocked the Castle last year. The ensemble will be filled out with musicians from the Rock River Philharmonic including Rob Tomaro on guitar and banjo; Dan Kastan on drums and percussion; John Mayers on trumpet; Ken Stein on saxophone and clarinet; and Tony Wisniewski on bass.
The “Wizard of Oz” has had a checkered history since Frank L. Baum published his book in 1900. What he described as a young girl’s dreamlike journey to an enchanted land over the rainbow is purportedly filled with hidden messages. It was made into a play that took veiled jibes at popular figures of the day, including Teddy Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller.
In 1925, a little known vaudeville impresario, Larry Semon, adopted it as a vehicle to support a slapstick film romp starring himself as a farmhand from Kansas who disguises himself as the Scarecrow when he gets to Oz. He is accompanied by Dorothy and two other farmhands, who disguise themselves as the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man. The latter is played for laughs by a young Oliver Hardy in an outing that pre-dates his partnership with Stan Laurel. Tomaro sums it up: “This is not your grandmother’s Wizard of Oz.”
Valet parking will be available. Tickets are $28 and are available online at BeloitFilmFest.org and will be available at the Downtown BIFF Box office which opens Feb.8 in the Gallery Abba at CELEB, 437 East Grand Ave.
The Beloit International Film Festival, celebrating its 11th year, is sponsored by the Hendricks Group in association with Beloit College and with funding from Visit Beloit. Support for the Festival comes from area businesses and civic organizations, and individual support for BIFF is provided through membership in the BIFF Founders and the Film Society of Beloit. For more information, please visit the BIFF website at BeloitFilmFest.org.