YouTube star Todrick Hall has made more than a few enemies along the yellow brick road to this production.
Move over, Pink Floyd. There’s a new Oz in town, and it’s not your parents’ alternate soundtrack—though it may have an even darker backstory.
Yesterday, former American Idol contestant and songwriter Todrick Hall dropped a house-sized revelation on YouTube in the form of a re-imagined Wizard of Oz. The 1939 masterpiece is recreated lovingly from the start, complete with Kirstie Maldonado of the a cappella group Pentatonix singing “Over the Rainbow” while wearing gingham and holding a little dog.
But then suddenly the vocal group bursts into “Shatter every window, ‘til it’s all blown away,” unleashing a tornado of sound into the mix and replacing Harold Arlen with Carrie Underwood. It’s The Wizard of Ahhhs, and for the next six and a half minutes, the vintage musicals get a facelift that’s the biggest thing to happen to the Emerald City since the original Oz dazzled its viewers with color for the first time. Glenda does hip-hop; Dorothy sings, “I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round / two bottle whiskey for the way,” as she sets off down the yellow brick road; and Oz the Great and Powerful sings Kanye’s “Power” while dressed as a green-bedazzled vaudevillian—one part steampunk, two parts Joel Grey.
The whole story of the Wizard of Oz is presented here, and though there’s more direct homage to Glee than to that earlier iconic reboot, the all-black musical The Wiz, the spirit of Ahhhs feels much the same. By the time the final ensemble number closes with Mötley Crüe—oh, my god!—this musical theatre nerd was beside herself.
It’s certainly not the first time Hall has scored big with a musical reinvention. Since taking his act from reality talent shows to YouTube, he’s regularly produced viral hits, from flash mobs to a musical Subway order.
But there’s a not-so-happy twist: Hall was apparently working on an Oz adaptation for a while, and four years ago he allegedly swindled up to $7,500 from over 100 children to whom he had promised roles in a stage version of the production in Nashville. In 2011 he successfully Kickstarted the production—but the comments on the Kickstarter are full of angry backers who claim they never got the rewards they paid for.
“I hope no one gives this guy another dime for his projects,” reads the final comment to date, from 2012. “No matter how good the project might be this guy has no honesty, integrity or very good character.”
But for better or worse, the 50,000 YouTube viewers who’ve listened to The Wizard of Ahhhs in half a day don’t know the history of the man behind the curtain.
All they know is that, as Hall’s brand-new Hollywood agent put it, “you made me laugh and you entertained me.”
It looks like Hall’s living in the Emerald City—at least until the next time he asks for money.
Screengrab via Todrick Hall/YouTube
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