Wiz of a bal­let

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE -

A clas­sic cast of char­ac­ters from a muchloved chil­dren’s book are about to de­scend on the city. Fly­ing monkeys and Munchkins, witches, a scare­crow, a lion, a tin man, a wiz­ard, and a pair of ruby slip­pers.

Based on the fa­mous tale by L Frank Baum, The Royal New Zealand Bal­let is bring­ing the world pre­miere sea­son of Francesco Ven­triglia ‘s The Wiz­ard of Oz to the Re­gent on Broad­way to­mor­row night.

Francesco, now the bal­let com­pany’s artis­tic di­rec­tor says he orig­i­nally in­tended The Wiz­ard of Oz to be a one-act bal­let. Then the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Italy’s Mag­gio Danza, Francesco re­worked the chore­og­ra­phy over five years into two acts. In 2013, it was to be per­formed at the opera house in Florence to a mu­si­cal score by French com­poser Fran­cis Poulenc.

The night be­fore the pre­miere, the theatre ceil­ing dra­mat­i­cally col­lapsed and the opera house was forced to close for re­pairs.

The show’s cos­tumes were packed away, the set was put into stor­age and the ruby slip­pers were never given their mo­ment on stage. Un­til now.

Cre­ated in Italy by ‘‘su­per­star de­signer’’ Gian­luca Falaschi, the set and cos­tumes at last are mak­ing their ap­pear­ance in a coun­try half way around the world.

The Oz that the Royal New Zealand Bal­let dancers in­habit is quite fan­tas­ti­cal. Not only do Munchkins ap­pear in 1930s bathing suits, the good witch has a but­ter­fly-gown, while the Wicked Witch of the West wears haute cou­ture. The monkeys have a whirling dervish streak and there are show­ers of green se­quins, red glit­ter and ging­ham.

Then there are other twists on the char­ac­ters – the Lion be­comes a tat­tooed hip­ster, the Tin Man has a steam punk shine, and the Scare­crow is put to­gether with patch­work grunge.

Ev­ery role in the bal­let was writ­ten in the book Francesco says, in­clud­ing the the Porce­lain King­dom dancers, in­spired by the col­lec­tion of Gian­luca’s grand­mother. His gran’s era also in­spired the 1920s swing dresses.

‘‘I thought of this world like I was a child. It’s the way a child in a hospi­tal bed is view­ing the world,’’ Gian­luca says.

Re­view­ers have rated the show a ‘Wow’ and ‘Splen­dido’.

The Royal New Zealand Bal­let per­forms its ‘‘sell out’’ sea­son of The Wiz­ard of Oz to­mor­row June 9 at 7.30pm


Dorothy and her three Wiz­ard Of Oz com­pan­ions from the Royal New Zealand Bal­let Com­pany pro­duc­tion, from left, Lough­lan Prior as Scare­crow, Mas­simo Mar­garia as Tin Man, Ja­cob Chown as Lion and Lucy Green as Dorothy.

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