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February 19, 2013

Yellow brick road leads to downtown Birmingham

The Birmingham Palladium is set to host a public premier for the upcoming movie ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful’

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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According to actor Martin Klebba, who has a supporting role in the upcoming film “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” most of the movie’s background performers and non-leading cast are from Michigan.

BIRMINGHAM — As Dorothy once said, “There’s no place like home.” And for the actors of the upcoming feature film, “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” there’s no better place to celebrate the movie’s premiere than right here in Michigan.

On March 8, the Birmingham Palladium 12 Theater will host a Hollywood-style premiere event for the film’s Michigan cast, their families and friends. According to event organizer Colin McConnell, the premiere will give the movie’s local talent a chance to see the completed “Oz” together.

“We were talking one day and we were saying a majority of the people that were in the (film) that weren’t the four or five big names are from Michigan,” said McConnell. “We wanted to do a premiere for them because we didn’t know if Disney was going to do a premiere here, and even if they were, it was going to be a plus-one, not a friends and family invitation.”

McConnell has a special interest in the making of the film because his longtime friend Martin Klebba was part of the cast. Klebba, originally from Troy and a graduate of Troy Athens High School, has had roles in a long list of hit movies, including “Mirror, Mirror” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.

Klebba said working on “Oz” in Michigan for two months was the best of both worlds — all the glamour and big-name actors of Hollywood, with all the comforts of home.

“It was cool. I had just got done doing ‘Mirror, Mirror’ in Montreal and I got to go home for one day then I had to fly back to Detroit to work two months on ‘Oz,’ which was an honor because everyone loves the original,” said Klebba, who now lives in Sterling Heights with his wife and new baby. “I was working for (director) Sam Raimi, who’s also a Michigander. Basically, I got to stay home and hang out with all my friends and family during the day then go to work, which is something I don’t normally get to do.”

Klebba called the “Oz” experience “amazing,” and said the prequel to the classic film “The Wizard of Oz” was kept tightly under wraps from the public. In fact, he said most of the actors in the film didn’t even receive scripts until they showed up to the set for the day and received their lines on the spot.

He also spoke of the talents of the lead actors, such as Zach Braff and James Franco, who plays the man who would become the Wizard of Oz.

“He’s one of those Johnny Depp kind of actors. He’s just that good.”

After such a positive experience making the movie, Klebba said he’s excited to be able to celebrate the film with his fellow actors who aren’t able to go to the official Disney premiere event in California. McConnell agreed, adding that the Palladium is providing six theaters to screen the film, so all of the actors and background performers can enjoy the party together, no matter how large or small their role.

“We wanted to do a big red-carpet thing. A lot of the (background performers) are real estate agents or car sales people — they probably won’t do another movie again,” said McConnell.

As guests enter the theater that evening, they’ll be able to greet the press on the “red carpet,” which McConnell said will actually be a yellow brick road. He said that after the screening the group hopes to be able to continue the celebration at an after-party somewhere in downtown Birmingham. Organizers are still seeking a venue and sponsors to make that a reality.

Proceeds from the premiere will benefit the Coalition of Dwarf Advocacy, a charity Klebba helped to found. As a little person himself, Klebba said he’s excited to raise a few bucks for CoDA, which facilitates adoptions and scholarships for young dwarf orphans.

“I’ll be able to watch (the movie) with the munchkins and the winkies and the tinkers and they’ll get to experience what it’s like to have a red carpet, or yellow brick road carpet, and what it’s like to be a part of a film like that, and hopefully raise a lot of money for CoDA at the same time. It’s going to be amazing,” said Klebba.

The “Oz: The Great and Powerful” friends and family movie premiere fundraiser will begin at 7:30 p.m. March 8 and is open to the public with ticket prices of $15 for 2D or $18 for 3D. Tickets can be purchased at www.gofundme.com/CoDAmoviefundraiser. For more information on the Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy, visit www.dwarfadvocates.com.

The Birmingham Palladium 12 Theater is located at 250 N. Old Woodward Ave. in downtown Birmingham.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.