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TV REVIEW : ‘Wizard’ Trips on Yellow Brick Road

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I don’t think we’re in Hollywood anymore, Toto. We’re sure not on Broadway either, although “The Wizard of Oz in Concert” (on TNT tonight) was shot at New York’s Lincoln Center. It might as well be Kansas for all the magic generated by this staged permutation of the classic 1939 film. (Net proceeds from ticket sales, advertising, etc. will go to the Children’s Defense Fund organization.)

It’s more than a concert but not really a musical. The performers read dialogue but don’t quite act . Only occasionally are the songs given enough of a new spin to be interesting. Where’s “The Wiz” when you need it?

The concept of presenting the Harlen-Harburg songs in an unfamiliar context isn’t a bad one, and the show has its moments: Ry Cooder applies his signature guitar touch to the first “Over the Rainbow,” and Natalie Cole (as Glinda) brings gospel fire to “You’re Out of the Woods.” The “lost” song, “The Jitterbug,” is also included.

But “The Wizard of Oz in Concert” makes the mistake of trying to tell the entire story. The endless, clumsily executed narration and dialogue slow the pace to a crawl.

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Young alterna-pop singer Jewel is a bland Dorothy, Debra Winger plays the Wicked Witch and Joel Grey portrays the Wizard. In a bizarre casting decision worthy of an “SCTV” sketch, two of pop’s most humorless figures, Jackson Browne and Roger Daltrey, are handed the Scarecrow and Tin Man gear, respectively.

Also popping up as special musical guests are Phoebe Snow, Dr. John, Ronnie Spector and David Sanborn.

When Dorothy and Toto (a young man from the Harlem Boys Choir) first hit the Yellow Brick Road, even Browne-bashers might be heard shouting a futile warning: “Jackson, don’t do it; go back.” If he only had a brain.

* “The Wizard of Oz in Concert” airs at 5 and 7 tonight on cable’s TNT, and again Sunday at 5 p.m.

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