When the Wizard of Oz Featured Imogene the Cow

Remember that hit musical about the Wizard of Oz? Wicked, right?

Or was that the 1970s version, The Wiz?

Believe it or not, long before Wicked or The Wiz, before even the classic 1939 movie was filmed, The Wizard of Oz was America’s biggest hit musical for several years right around the turn-of-the-century. The play premiered at Chicago’s Grand Opera House on June 16, 1902, and went to Broadway one year later.

The book was written by Frank Baum himself, and the music was composed by Paul Tietjens.

Between the best-selling book and the hit play, The Wizard of Oz soon became a phenomenon akin to the 21st century’s love affair with Harry Potter.

But weirdly enough, one of Baum’s most beloved characters made no appearance in the play. Instead of Dorothy’s little dog, Toto, Dorothy traveled to Oz with Imogene the cow. The reason was simple enough. It was considered too difficult to have a dog act on stage. Imogene was played by an actor dressed in a cow’s costume.

Fortunately, by the time MGM filmed the movie in 1939, animal trainers in Hollywood had no difficulty training a real live dog to play the role of Toto.

You have to wonder if The Wizard of Oz would have been such a hit if Toto have been played by a cow.

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