The 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz made a loud return to the silver screen for two weekends in March — this time as one of the Castro’s infamous sing-a-long movies. So, I did what any good gay boy would do: I belted out a few vocal warm-ups and skipped towards the theater with my best friend and some two-buck chuck in tow.
I’m no stranger to these sweet-sounding events, and definitely not to the Castro Theater. I was thrown into the world of sing-along movies in high school when I joined her holiness Meryl Streep for an unforgettable time at “Mamma Mia”. It was obvious that these screenings are nothing without wholehearted involvement from the audience, so ushers hand everyone who attends a goodie bag of props meant to lubricate the process. While people find their seats and begin to sift through their toys, they are treated to sounds of the all-Wurlitzer pipe organ bellowing scores from the film that’s soon to begin. Pre-show rituals like this are what makes the Castro theater really special, and help justify the hefty $15 price tag (although non sing-a-longs run only $10).
For The Wiz, MCs dressed as the majestic Glinda and a citizen of Emerald city take the stage to coordinate prop use as well as suggest additional dialogue for certain parts of the film.
The crowd dons their faux-gold crowns faster than you can say accessory, are asked to yip like Toto whenever the dog is on-screen, then to hiss at any appearances of the Wicked Witch of the West. And trust me, few groups are better armed than the men of the Castro to hiss at a woman with poor complexion and a shoddy manicure.
After a few minutes of practice, the film kicks into full speed and finally the goodie bags are really put to the test. First come the bubbles that float upward during Glinda’s scenes that are soon followed by the waving of wands when any sort of magic takes place.
The crowd stumbles along after Dorothy, and soon makes the acquaintance of a ditzy Scarecrow, a cold-hearted Tin Man, and an ever so Cowardly Lion. Luckily the 1,400 seat theater is filled with plenty of tiny paper scrolls of knowledge, plastic hearts that go great with tin, and heaps of courageous medals to give the Lion a little bling. Finally, the sound of cracking glow sticks fills the theater, lighting the audience with their sickly green glow as characters on-screen enter Emerald City.
By the time the technicolor credits scroll up the screen, I find my parter in crime deep in a Merlot slumber and the hoarse audience is raring to see where the rest of the night will take them. Huge grins are visible left and right as people pour out of the auditorium, many finding it difficult to adjust to the real world after such a surreal movie experience.
These special nights appeal to a wide range of movie-goers — the theater even makes a point to put on child-friendly matinees earlier in the day.
Regardless of whether or not the Castro is your scene, any student would only be cheating themselves if they don’t make it to at least one movie here during their time at USF. Films to suit almost anyone’s taste pack the diverse monthly schedule — so grab a friend, hop on the 24, and follow the yellow brick road to the intoxicatingly fun Castro Theater.