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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : Patti LuPone visits a silent world on Showtime and turns it all around

November 19, 1995|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Imagine a world where sound has been banned and silence rules. Then think of Patti LuPone--who wowed Broadway in "Evita" in 1980 and is doing it again with her one-woman show, "Patti LuPone on Broadway"--visiting that world.

LuPone has the title role in Showtime's fantasy-family film The Song Spinner, set in a land of unhappiness where everyone whispers. Although LuPone says she initially found the story "odd," the actress was drawn to the "beautiful story of family relationships." LuPone's character, described as a "mysterious and musical stranger," helps a little girl save the kingdom from its silence.

Foremost to the tale, says LuPone, speaking from backstage at her show's Manhattan theater, is the importance of custom and tradition.

"The Song Spinner" airs Sunday at 6 p.m. on Showtime. For ages 4 and up.

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A star-studded The Wizard of Oz in Concert features Roger Daltrey as the Tin Man, Jackson Browne as The Scarecrow, Debra Winger as the Wicked Witch of the West, Sissy Spacek as Auntie Em, Natalie Cole as Glinda the Good Witch, Joel Grey as The Wizard, singer Jewel as Dorothy, Broadway's Nathan Lane as The Cowardly Lion and the Boys Choir of Harlem as the Munchkins. Alfre Woodard hosts the event, which also features Ry Cooder, Mandy Patinkin, David Sanborn, Carly Simon and Ronnie Spector.

Key scenes from the 1939 MGM movie are performed, and the full score is interspersed throughout the one-time-only concert taped Nov. 5 at New York's Lincoln Center, as a benefit for the Children's Defense Fund.

The concert was the brainchild of actor Darrell Larson, who served as stage director and adapter. Larson met Children's Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman at the Martha's Vineyard home of William Styron ("Sophie's Choice") and wife, who are his in-laws.

"I was so impressed with Marian and wanted to do something to support her efforts," says Larson, who spent three years on the project.

First cast was pal Winger, who co-starred with Larson in 1984's "Mike's Murder." "She knew right away that I wanted her for the witch," says Larson with a laugh in a quick phone interview during a backstage rehearsal.

Larson believes that "Oz" offers a timeless tale with a powerful subtext everyone can relate to: "We're offering a fresh view. We're not doing a lot of contemporizing or hip-hopping of it, but putting it in the context of something that will be both fresh and familiar."

Working with the more than 117 on-stage talent "has been the most difficult thing I've ever undertaken, but it's been absolutely worth it," Larson says.

All proceeds from the concert tickets, advertising, home videos and CDs will be contributed to the Children's Defense Fund.

"The Wizard of Oz in Concert" airs Wednesday at 5 p.m. on TNT. For ages 2 and up.

More Family Shows

In what TNT is calling the last appearance of the original Jonny Quest, the adventuresome cartoon boy takes on bugs in Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects (Sunday 6 and 8 p.m.; Thursday 3 p.m.; Friday 7:30 a.m. and Saturday at noon, TNT). The movie features the "final showdown" with arch-nemesis Dr. Zin and his killer insects. "Jonny Quest," which debuted in September, 1964, on ABC, ran on all three major broadcast networks (CBS in 1967, ABC again in 1970, NBC in 1978). A new "Jonny" series debuts on the Turner networks in fall, 1996. For ages 3 to 10.

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Boyz II Men: Going Home (Sunday 9 p.m.; Monday 4:15 a.m.; Thursday 10 p.m., Disney Channel) follows the careers of the four young Philadelphia singers through concerts and interviews. For ages 10 and up.

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Nickelodeon starts off the holiday with Nick's Thanksgiving Fest (Wednesday 6 p.m.), a potpourri of animated Thanksgiving tales. Then Nickelodeon's U Pick Non-Stop Nicktoon Weekend (Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 26, noon to 8 p.m., and Saturday night, 8 to 10 p.m.) combines "Doug," "Rugrats," "Rocko's Modern Life" and "AAAHH!!! Real Monsters." For ages 2 to 12.

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