Kansas City Ballet premiered a lavish new ballet of The Wizard of Oz. Since KC is my hometown, I was there for opening night, but also for a number of local events designed to promote the production. There was a kick off at Union Station, a talk at the library, a rehearsal, and a book club discussion leading up to opening night. Every event was memorable.
It was hard to focus on remarks by Artistic Director Devon Carney and Mayor Sly James at the kick-off event at Union Station, because the area was teaming with Poppy Girls and Emerald Citizens. The costumes were lovely, and the promise of great things to come. The company gave us a taste of the choreography and our first chance to hear some of the original score written for this ballet. Afterwards they shared the dance floor with the public during a flash mob to Ease on Down the Road. Great fun! Photo ops included posing with a pair of Ruby Slipper ballet shoes. Posters were handed out to the crowd.
Choreographer Septime Webre joined Carney at the Public Library for a packed audience. Costumed mannequins allowed us to get up close to the Tin Man, the Wicked Witch of the West, Munchkins and Yellow Brick “Roadie” costumes. This time the stories held my attention. Webre grew up with the Oz books and first produced the story as a child with hand-costumed marionettes. His desire to bring a fresh new version of the story to the stage has been with him for decades; only now did he feel really prepared to create his vision of Oz. He shares some of that story online here.
I was invited to a rehearsal (the perks of being president of the Oz Club!) and took my friend Paul Schneider with me. It was a working rehearsal, so we held our desire to burst out in exclamations and applause. It wasn’t easy. The company was rehearsing the Muchkinland scene, giving me an idea of how Dorothy, the two Witches, and an absolutely scene stealing Toto would appear on stage. We met many of the dancers at a reception afterwards, including Amanda DeVenuta who dances the role of Dorothy.
Just days before opening night the KC Public Library’s Book Club met to discuss Baum’s original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We compared the book to the classic film, and when Devon Carney joined us with his laptop to show us costume and set designs, our collective enthusiasm grew. There was an article in the paper about our discussion you can read if you’re interested. (Link)
And finally it was opening night. But that was so incredible a night it calls for a blog all its own….