Twenty-six years ago in a whirlwind, I traveled from New Jersey to relocate to California. In a reliable '72 Impala I crossed the country, convinced I'd find a better life by cashing in on the west's promise to America. At breakneck speed - precipitated by financial need for a paycheck, I completed the journey in just over four days. As an empty promise to myself I swore someday I repeat the journey at a more leisurely pace. Finally this summer that time has come.
The immediate cause for my adventure is my hosting of an eleven-city live show in America's shopping malls, "looking for the next Dorothy". The purpose is to find a young lady 16-23 to play the role of Dorothy in musical salute to legendary composer Harold Arlen. Arlen scored the MGM classic The Wizard of Oz, and wrote over 400 tunes including Stormy Weather, The Man That Got Away, and most famously - Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Our journey started in LA and will end in NYC on September 2. I've observed an America busting out of its suburban seams as new developments are extending into the once pristine rural areas. Frisco, Texas is a huge area that appears to have sprouted overnight. Evidence that America is in the midst of a population explosion is everywhere. From Wal-Mart gentrification, to rampant overt obesity America appears to be a nation vastly different than my last cross-country experience unveiled - but I'll get off my soapbox and get back to Dorothy.
In each city we're crowning a "Dorothy" who might be chosen to move on to the finals at Manhattan's South Street Seaport. The ultimate prize is a role in WiZaRD, a musical celebration of Arlen's legacy produced by The Harold Arlen Foundation. The competition has been stellar, heartwarming, and tough. Music is what all these girls have in common. Its influence is evident in their demeanor, discipline, and pinpoint determination to be at the top of their game. I never expected to find such gold auditioning inside the shopping malls of America. I've witnessed that music is inexorably tied to high character.
St. Louis at the Galleria August 17
Jacksonville Florida, August 23
Atlanta at the Northpoint Mall August 25
Boston at the Natwick Collection August 28
The Paramus Mall, NJ August 30
NY NY at the South Street Seaport Sept 1