Music | We’re Off to See the Witch: Eliza Wren’s dark side of Oz. | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Music | We’re Off to See the Witch: Eliza Wren’s dark side of Oz. 

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When Eliza Wren was a little girl, she always had a taste for spooky things. n

“I always really loved scary movies,” Wren says, “But it’s not like my mom was going to let me rent The Exorcist. I had to take what I could get.”


The local musician wasn’t a morbid little girl. She was simply drawn to things that pushed the outer limits of the imagination.


Wren indulged her dark side—occasionally—with Return to Oz. The 1985 Walter Murch movie portrays a once robust, now desolate, enchanted kingdom—visited, of course, by a young girl named Dorothy—lorded over by an evil witch whose daily wardrobe change involves a stroll through a hall of human heads.


Like many children, Wren harbored a secret fantasy of running away to an enchanted place and Return to Oz appealed to that instinct. Her parents, however, weren’t too keen on her muse.


“My family wouldn’t let me rent Return to Oz as much as I wanted, but when I moved out on my own, I rediscovered it. It holds up pretty well for an ‘80s movie,” She says. “Each and every frame is so breathtakingly beautiful.”


A young, female heroine pitted against sinister talking rocks and evil clown-like henchmen awakened Wren’s creative instincts.


“I developed a habit of making up music and playing along to movies I liked as a kid,” Wren says. “As an adult, Return to Oz immediately came to mind when I decided to do a full-length film score.”


The result is The Return to Oz Project, a concept album with 30 original songs synched to the film whose stunning visual and scant dialogue provide the perfect backdrop for Wren’s imaginative compositions. All the painstaking work she put into the writing process pays off big time. Thanks to her descriptive score—complete with unconventional instrumentation including a banjo—it’s easy to understand what’s going on in the film even without hearing a peep from Oz’s characters.


Then there’s Wren’s sweet, child-like voice, singing of fear, abandonment, love and longing—a pitch-perfect Dorothy with an eerie, yet whimsical twist. Apparently, she shares more than just tone in common with the Kansas-based heroine.


“I found an old picture of me recently where I’m wearing a dress and I’ve got my hair braided exactly like The Dorothy character in Return to Oz,” Wren says, with a slight laugh, “I guess you could say she’s kind of my alter ego.”


Because Return to Oz is a Disney movie, there has been some red tape as far as arranging public screenings and releasing a dubbed version of the DVD.


“I plan to release the two-disc Return to Oz Project album on January 9th,” explains Wren, “There will be special instructions on how to sync the CD with the DVD, even if we can’t technically release them together.”

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Jenny Poplar

Jenny Poplar is both a dancer and a frequent City Weekly contributor.

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