Oklahoma City Ballet plans ‘yellow brick’ encore for 40th anniversary finale
To cap its 40th anniversary season, the Oklahoma City Ballet will present a special encore production of “The Wizard of Oz,” April 20-22 at the Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave.
The ballet is based on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” a classic children’s novel by author L. Frank Baum which has become one of the best-known stories in American popular culture. The story chronicles the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz, after being swept away from her Kansas farm home in a storm.
The production premiered during the 2008-2009 season, set to an original score by Kermit Poling written specifically for this ballet.
“We wanted to conclude this milestone season with an exciting, colorful production that people would want to experience with their children,” Executive Director John Krasno said. “With so many people requesting we bring the yellow brick road back for an encore performance, we felt strongly that this was a fun way to thank the city for their ongoing support.”
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 22. The production will feature live orchestral music by The Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and flying effects and a three-dimensional tornado provided by Las Vegas-based ZFX Flying Effects.
Total running time is two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Individual ticket prices range from $10 to $57 depending on section. Online ticketing is available, by phone at 405.848.TOES (8637) or at the Civic Center Box Office. According to Artistic Director Robert Mills, because the story is told without words, the most significant challenge in preparing for this production has been helping the dancers imbue their movements and expressions with the essence of the character they are portraying. “Ballet Master Jacob Sparso has created dynamic choreography that effortlessly tells the story without words or singing,” Mills said. “It is energetic, engaging and highly entertaining for adults and children alike.”
The lead role of Dorothy will be shared by Stephanie Foraker Pitts (Friday and Sunday) and Amanda Herd (Saturday).
Joshua Crespo will dance the role of Scarecrow, Anton Iakovlev will play the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion will be danced by David Barocio. Miki Kawamura will portray the most powerful sorceress of Oz: Glinda the Good Witch of the South. The story’s primary antagonist, The Wicked Witch of the West, will be a role shared by Sarah Chun (Friday and Sunday) and Audrey Johnston (Saturday).
Students from The Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet will charm audiences as the Munchkins, the Winged Monkeys, and as Toto (the role of Toto will also be played by a dog in the Kansas farm scenes).
Seven stage sets were created for the production by California-based set designer Ed Gallagher with support from resident designer Dale Hall. Sets include: The Farm (with a working windmill), Munchkin Land, Yellow Brick Road, Enchanted Forest, Witches Lair (bubbling cauldron), Poppy Field and Emerald City.
Costumes were designed by Bruce Bui, resident costume designer for Ballet Memphis, and Oklahoma City Ballet Costumer Michael Jones.
Family-friendly activities scheduled one hour prior to each performance in the south lobby include: “Build the Yellow Brick Road,” where kids can color their own bricks and help build the road for Dorothy’s journey to Oz; and “Picture This,” a photo opportunity in front of a green screen that magically transports you to the land of Oz.
Thirty minutes before show time is “Storybook Time,” where families can listen to Glinda the Good Witch of the South tell the story of The Wizard of Oz. Following the Sunday matinee performance, Braum’s will provide milk and cookies for a reception where families can meet their favorite dancers.
Founded in 1972, the Oklahoma City Ballet is the resident dance company of the Civic Center Music Hall and tours as part of the Oklahoma Arts Council’s touring program. It is the only U.S. ballet company of its size to regularly debut world premier full-length ballets with original commissioned scores. Oklahoma City Ballet also tours under the auspices of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Touring Program and the Heart.