L. Frank Baum was an introvert during his childhood, spending his time mostly engrossed in the fictional worlds of books and his own imagination. He also displayed considerable talent for writing during his earliest years, being the successful publisher of two different, albeit short-lived, newspapers. For a while he pursued acting, before ultimately settling down with his wife in Chicago. It was his mother-in-law that persuaded him to put to paper the stories he had been telling his kids – creating The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the hit book that two years later became the hit stage play.
On this day, January 21, in 1903, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz premiered in New York’s Majestic Theatre. Although Baum had a hand in writing the lyrics for some of the musical numbers, the stage play bore little resemblance to the book.
The play still proved to be as great a success as the book. After a lengthy Broadway run, the musical extravaganza returned to Chicago, where it began in 1902, and continued touring around the country for years afterward. The musical itself in turn inspired the 1939 movie of the same name, but aside from the broad outlines, the movie likewise bore little resemblance to the musical or Baum’s book.