It’s time to see the Wizard! The Wizard of Oz, a million-dollar co-production between Kansas City Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) will make its highly anticipated Canadian premiere at the Centennial Concert Hall from May 1-5 as the classic tale is brought to life through the RWB. Choreographer Septime Webre’s vivid retelling of Frank L. Baum’s beloved story of family, friendship, and courage sold out performances in the US and is expected to do so in Winnipeg.
This production is filled with all the familiarity of the classic movie – Dorothy and Toto’s landing in Oz, joining forces with three unlikely heroes, traveling to the Emerald City to see the Wizard, and their triumph over the Wicked Witch– yet realized with a bold, new spectacle of music, costumes, sets, projections, and special effects.
“The Wizard of Oz looms large in our collective psyches. Its vivid characters, sense of over-the-top whimsy, and spirit of adventure are beyond captivating- it’s a kinetic tale which begs to be danced,” said Webre. “It’s been a terrific project to work on, with a dream team of collaborators, and three excellent companies of dancers with whom I’ve developed material; it’s been exciting to see this iconic tale take on a new life!”
The Wizard of Oz has been in the works for the past two years and required a collaborative team of 120, not including dancers, to bring Webre’s vision to life. The musical score, composed by Matthew Pierce, is 471 pages long and features three percussion players playing 35 different percussion instruments, one of those being a wind machine. Conductor Julian Pellicano will lead the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through Pierce’s score.
Set designer Michael B. Raiford created the set to give the feeling of looking down into a tornado. Trad A. Burns, lighting designer, created an environment where 300 light cues take place using over 1,000 channels of lights. Puppet designer Nicholas Mahon created nearly 20 puppets, including a mechanical Toto. The RWB Wardrobe Department spent nearly 7,000 hours in total building costume designer Liz Vandal’s The Wizard of Oz costumes in-house. There are nearly 200 costumes, with headpieces alone costing around $50,000.
“The boundless talent of The Wizard of Oz creative team took my breath away- this is Oz like you’ve never seen before,” said RWB Artistic Director and CEO André Lewis. “The design team created the perfect canvas for the RWB and RWB School dancers to immerse audiences in the famed tale. The ‘wow factor’ of this ballet is astonishing; you truly must see it to believe it.”
The Wizard of Oz has been made possible in part by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Winnipeg Arts Council, Presenting Sponsor BMO, Live Music Benefactor The Asper Foundation, and created with generous support of The Estate of Barbara Cook.
“We have a longstanding partnership with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and are pleased to continue our support to one of the country’s most acclaimed ballet companies,” said John MacAulay, Regional President of the Prairies and Northwest Territories Division at the Bank of Montreal. “There is so much talent within Canadian performing arts, and the RWB specifically, so we are excited to help showcase that to the Winnipeg community with the Canadian premiere of The Wizard of Oz. ”
The Wizard of Oz events:
The Making of a Ballet: Before the curtain rises, RWB’s Associate Artistic Director Tara Birtwhistle will host an educational, insightful behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Wizard of Oz ballet at 7 PM on Thursday, April 25. Meet some of the creative minds behind the choreography, costumes, and sets. This Mc Nally Community Classroom event is sure to pique the interest of anyone curious about the performing arts. More info found at: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/classes.
Pre-show Chats: Join the RWB thirty minutes prior to each performance at the Centennial Concert Hall for a chat between RWB artistic staff and local media. Admission is free with The Wizard of Oz ticket.
Meet the Dancers: RWB dancers will be available for photos and to sign autographs on May 2 and 4 immediately following the performance.
Backstage Tour: Join the RWB for an intimate look at the exciting world of dance behind the scenes on May 1 and 3 following the performance. Tickets to the tour are free, but limited, and available at intermission.
More event information can be found at rwb.org leading up to the performance.
What: The Wizard of Oz
Location: Centennial Concert Hall, 555 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Tickets: Children’s tickets are $25 with adult tickets starting at just $30. Tickets can be purchased www.rwb.org, in person through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue or by calling 204-956-2792 or toll free 1-800-667-4792. Groups of ten or more should contact the RWB Customer Service Office for more information on group discounts. Please note that the RWB does not sell tickets through any third-party websites.
Choreographer: Septime Webre
Composer: Matthew Pierce
Set Designer: Michael B. Raiford
Costume Designer: Liz Vandal
Lighting Designer: Trad A. Burns
Puppet Design: Nicholas Mahon
Video Design: Aaron Rhyne
Storyline and visual element from the MGM Motion Picture The Wizard of Oz provided by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.