L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” did wonders for creative types who dreamed up all sorts of ways to interpret the classic 1900 children’s book.
Add a new ballet to the list. Colorado Ballet will debut “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday at Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex in Denver. It runs through Feb. 10.
The production is a collaboration with the Kansas City Ballet, where it premiered in October, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada, where it will open in May. It’s the brainchild of world-renowned choreographer and Hong Kong Ballet artistic director Septime Webre, who last worked with the Colorado Ballet a couple of years ago on “Alice (in Wonderland).”
“When I went to Kansas City to see the opening, I left and was thoroughly exhausted,” said Gil Boggs, artistic director for Colorado Ballet. “There’s so much going on, and it’s so entertaining. I’m just very happy about that.”
Folks familiar with the iconic, 1939 Academy Award-winning film “The Wizard of Oz” will be pleased with the en pointe version. The ballet follows the story line of the movie very closely, though the much-loved music will be entirely different.
Composer Matthew Pierce created a score that’s “very lively, with a few slow sections in it,” said Boggs. “It’s an orchestra, but there’s a saxophone in it. There’s a hint of contemporary.”
Faithful fans also will appreciate the special effects, complete with the tornado that starts it all, winged monkeys and, of course, Toto, though the latter is a mechanical puppet. It’s one of the show’s many creations by Nicholas Mahon, who helped design the puppets used during the opening ceremonies of last year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
“Choreographer Septime Webre, who in his program bio relates his childhood obsession with the Oz books, brings an inventive playfulness to the production and makes the familiar story seem fresh again,” wrote critic Robert Trussell for KC Studio magazine, an arts and culture publication in Kansas City. “That’s not easy because virtually everyone knows the story. But that can work to the creative team’s advantage because nothing needs to be ‘explained,’ allowing them to employ a kind of visual shorthand.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM