FARGO-There's no place like home, but tonight there will be no place like the Gate City Bank Theatre at the Fargodome, where a touring production of "The Wizard of Oz" takes the stage.
Theatrical versions of the cinematic masterpiece are nothing new. Through the years, troupes have tackled this family favorite, sometimes putting different twists on the story. The African American retelling "The Wiz" debuted in 1974 and a film version followed in 1978.
Locally a number of theater organizations, from Trollwood Performing Arts School to FM Ballet, have staged versions of the musical fairy tale.
And it's not just theater organizations going down the Yellow Brick Road. This March, the Fargo Public Library produces its own children's theater take on the adventures of Dorothy. In 2016 Hope Inc., which provides recreational opportunities for physically challenged youths, held its own version.
In fact, this isn't even the first time an adaptation has played the Gate City Bank Theatre at the Fargodome. Seven years ago a road production was part of the facility's touring theater series.
So why, 79 years after the MGM movie came out and 118 years after L. Frank Baum's book hit shelves, is "The Wizard of Oz" still so popular?
"It has a lot of great essential parts of a good story," says Amber Emery, Children's Services Manager at Fargo Public Library.
In a 2013 piece called, "Oz Revisited: Why We Still Follow the Yellow Brick Road," in Time magazine, film critic Richard Corliss points to Dorothy's pioneering spirit, going to a place the adults in her life couldn't even dream of. There she knocks down the biggest bullies (the Wicked Witches of the East and West) on the playground, winning over the admiration of the Munchkins and others.
"Baum's Dorothy was a true heroine of nation-conquering dimensions: she came, saw and conquered, liberating the masses. She was Oz's Julius Caesar and Joan of Arc," Corliss wrote.
"People like the story so much because it's a well-written book," says Matthew Gasper, artistic director/choreographer at FM Ballet "A story that's written like 'The Wizard of Oz' tugs on the heartstrings of the audience."
A big part of the reason is because Dorothy is so likable and relatable.
"It's a story of self-discovery for Dorothy," Gasper says.
A farm girl in Kansas who gets transported to another land, Dorothy's isn't just trying to find her way back home, she discovers she has the ability to do what she puts her mind to do.
"Overall, the film is affirming that you have the ability to get what you want, and this power comes from within. Other people may be able to offer some moral support, but ultimately it's up to you," stated a 2010 article in Psychology Today, "Why 'The Wizard of Oz' is the most popular film of all time".
While there are clear differences between the film and the book, the screen version and the stage version are usually quite similar, Gasper says.
Perhaps the most identifiable aspect of "The Wizard of Oz" is the music, and how could it not be? The musical aired annually on broadcast television from 1959 until 1991, embedding itself into the consciousness of generations. It was a TV event as families would gather to watch in the days before cell phones pulled families apart and the immediacy of Netflix stripped televised movies of celebratory status. When NBC aired it in 1970, 64 million viewers tuned in.
In 2001 members of the Recording Industry Association of America named "Over the Rainbow" as the single best song of the 20th Century. Even other tunes, "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead," "If I Only Had a Brain," "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" and "We're Off to See the Wizard" are still alive in pop culture, from cover tunes to parodies to themes in memes.
The film also delivered unforgettable lines that are still part of our dialogue today. From news broadcasts to sports coverage you hear the echoes of lines like, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" and of course, "There's no place like home!"
It's perhaps that theme of home that resonates most with viewers.
"You keep cheering for her to get back home and when she does she realizes she never really left. We see that maybe the grass isn't always greener on the other side," Gasper says.
If You Go
What: "The Wizard of Oz"
When: 7:30, tonight
Where: Gate City Bank Theatre at the Fargodome, 1800 University Dr., N.
Info: Tickets are $36.50, $49 and $61.50