CGMC spins down the Rainbow Brick Road with new ‘Wizard of Oz’ parody

Lions and tigers and bears… and Debbie?!

Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus brings L. Frank Baum’s classic to new life in “The Wizard of Oz: Debbie Does Dorothy.” 

Featuring original music by CGMC Artistic Director James Morehead and book by Ashlee Hardgrave, Dorothy’s journey takes a wild turn down the rainbow brick road. Grab a ticket and celebrate L. Frank Baum’s birthday (May 15) AND the 121st anniversary of the first Wizard of Oz publish date (May 17)! The show will be running virtually May 14-16, 2021, with special singalongs on Zoom following each performance. 

With a cast of 15 featured performers and a chorus of 40, this LGBTQ+ spin on a classic introduces a new character: Debbie. But who is she? Audiences will not find out until the show, but we do know that she is the daughter of the Wicked Witch of the West. The music in this show is completely original, with the exception of the classic, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“Debbie Does Dorothy” is a collaboration between Morehead and writing partner Ashlee Hardgrave. “We had been pitching titles, and Jimmy blurted out Debbie Does Dorothy,” said Hardgrave. “I laughed for 20 minutes and that was that; I had to make it work.” With a story like “Wizard of Oz,” the pair had a lot to work with. 

“Ashlee and I begin with a framework,” said Morehead. “We chart our progress through the story and decide what happens, what we need to keep, and what we can omit.” The two are big fans of the original story and were excited to join forces to tell an old tale in a new way.

“The Wizard of Oz” has resonated with the LGBTQ+ community for over a century. Morehead said that, “Baum’s tale reminds many of us that what we need isn’t out in the world or given to us by others, but has been within us all along.” There is also the intrinsic connection to gay icon Judy Garland.

Book writer Ashlee Hardgrave noted the core themes that the community relates to: “The notion of feeling like you don’t fit in where you are, finding whatever you feel safe enough to call “home,” and how that notion of home changes as you learn about yourself and grow,” said Hardgrave. “Also, the notion of a ‘chosen’ family is something I see amongst my friends.” 

The story reminds us of the importance of love in friendship, who we call family, and ourselves. In our current political and social climate, finding your place does not feel easy. But then our favorite characters and friends from the fantastical Land of Oz show us that shining road, ruby red slippers, and connection through differences…and home does not feel so far away.

The digital format of the performances is much different from what a staged version would look like. “We have gotten more and more creative with what is possible in a digital format; from backgrounds to sound cues to editing tactics,” said Morehead. “The intricacies that can make live performance so exciting can get lost in both the recording and the mixing/editing process,” said Hardgrave. “Its limitations force us to not rely on the muscle memory of how we do live performance.”

This will hopefully be one of CGMC’s last virtual performances. The Chorus has not met in person since March 2020. With the city starting to reopen as the COVID vaccine is disbursed, the Chorus is currently working on a reopening plan as they monitor national, state and local guidelines. Morehead feels that the quality of the online shows has improved greatly through the 2020-21 Season.

Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is bringing the fun and campiness that audiences have come to know and love. “You, quite literally, will not see this anywhere else,” said Hardgrave. “Each time a CGMC show starts, I’m so proud of the organization and the communities it serves.” 

Tickets range from $15 – $40 with an additional per ticket fee. Only one (1) viewing ticket per device, per household. Additional tickets must be purchased separately. Patrons will receive a specialized link to view the performance at their selected date and time. All sales are final – no refunds or exchanges. 

Join the journey down the rainbow brick road and visit cgmc.org/oz to get tickets.

Follow Chicago Gay men’s Chorus on Facebook: @ChiGMC, Twitter: @chicagogmc, and Instagram: @cgmc.


The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus (CGMC) has been an integral part of Chicago’s cultural and gay communities since 1983. For more than three decades, the chorus has entertained audiences across the continent with innovative musical programming exploring everything from love to politics to the sometimes fabulous, sometimes challenging world of being gay; often all at the same time. Our always-memorable performances have included original musical revues; full-length book musicals; traditional choral concerts and intimate cabaret presentations; all punctuated with our signature joyous irreverence. Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2001.

BWM Staff

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