The Wizard of Oz ballet had its world premiere last Friday evening in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts hosted this timeless classic as a full house turned out for opening night. Not only was this a unique adaptation of the classic story, but the production also featured an original […]

The Wizard of Oz ballet had its world premiere last Friday evening in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts hosted this timeless classic as a full house turned out for opening night.
Not only was this a unique adaptation of the classic story, but the production also featured an original musical score, which was performed by members of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra.
As someone who had not attended a ballet since watching The Nutcracker in Dodge City several years ago, here are some impressions.
The Kansas scene was particularly stark and gray, but the tornado scene was well done, as a large video screen featured a rotating black and white tornado with all sorts of things twirling around inside it, like Dorothy and Toto, a man milking a cow and still holding onto the bucket, and the Dorothy's unpleasant neighbor, Miss Gulch, spinning around on her bicycle. The use of long gray banners carried by ballerinos (male dancers) twirling around Toto and Dorothy's bed also had a nice effect.
Overall, this production had a great sense of humor, which was scattered like seeds planted throughout the production. Dorothy's dog, Toto, performed by a marionette during the ballet, provided frequent humor relief and much flair as the dog wove in and out of various scenes. The skillful marionette created a highly believable dog, even as he was always visible behind Toto.
Not far into the story, a tornado deposits Dorothy and Toto within a wholly different place. This is a colorful, festive world full of much excitement and enthusiasm. Munchkinland. The ballerinas and ballerinos that appeared wore unique, brightly colored outfits of every gradation (envision the color wheel). Anyway, the costumes were not what you would typically find on a ballet stage. Incidentally, we discovered at the end of the show that the costume designer for Oz, Liz Vandal, who wore an original burlap dress, had been sitting just above us in a special seating area.
The dancers spun, shimmied, and shook and many came bouncing up to their new visitor and her furry sidekick (initially many weren't quite sure what to make of Toto). This is only how the ballet began.
Ballet tells its story through dance, primarily, not words (although there was minimal use of text within the show). From my perspective, the ballerinas and ballerinos, accompanied by original music, effectively expressed the familiar storyline of the Wizard of Oz and did so in a highly artistic manner. Anyway, this beloved classic played out well as a ballet.
All in all, it was very difficult to pick out a favorite scene in the ballet, but the most disturbing one, for me, was the Winged Monkeys and the Witches Castle. I definitely don't want any of those very lifelike monkeys flying through my dreams.
As I told a friend before heading to Kansas City, when a single guy goes to the ballet it may be mainly to impress his date. So, I said, I was going to impress my wife. In the end, I was the one impressed by the Kansas City Ballet's production of the Wizard of Oz.
It's not yet too late to catch the show. There will be six more performances of the Wizard of Oz on October 17, 18, 19, 20 (both matinee and evening), and 21 (matinee only). Tickets may be purchased at kcballet.org. Incidentally, the Wizard of Oz is a collaborative effort involving three ballet companies: Kansas City, Denver, and Winnipeg. So, once the curtain closes on the Kauffman Center stage next Sunday afternoon, the show will pack up and head west to Denver, eventually concluding its run north of the border in Winnipeg.