The Wizard of Oz

Dancers Angelina Sansone & Geoffrey Kropp. Photographer Steve Wilson.
Dancer: Danielle Bausinger with KCB Company Dancers. Photographer Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Choreography by Septime Webre
Music Composition by Matthew Pierce
Scenic Design by Michael Raiford
Costume Design by Liz Vandal
Lighting Design by Trad A Burns
Projection Design by Aaron Rhyne
Puppetry Design by Nicholas Mahon
Design Coordination by Trad A Burns

My relationship with all things OZ, in four easy steps:

1. I grew up in the Bahamas until I was about twelve, and every Sunday, driving to a small missionary church my family attended we’d pass a tiny greying abandoned house plopped in the brush near a beach. We called it Dorothy’s house and it looked as though a Caribbean hurricane had dropped it there, like Dorothy’s house landing in Munchkinland. My siblings and I were obsessed with the Oz books and read every book in the series multiple times.

2. When I was twelve years old we moved to South Texas, and my brothers and sister and I bought a whole suite of marionettes for 99 cents each in Mexico. We spent the whole summer re-costuming these string puppets to create a full cast of Oz, and we painted elaborate backdrops to fit the full-sized puppet house my parents had ordered for us from FAO Schwartz. We created what we thought was a rather extravagant puppet version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which we toured all over South Texas—from nursing homes to orphanages, to church bazaars.

3. A few years later, in my late teens, I ran a youth summer program for the local Parks and Recreation Department, in partnership with the Texas School for the Blind and a social service agency that provided support for kids with Down Syndrome. That summer I directed a production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with the majority of the principal roles played by blind teens and the Munchkins played by youth with Down Syndrome. It was such a celebration of humanity.

4. And now, Oz, the ballet. Over the years I had toyed with working on a ballet adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but had resisted— both the book and the film are such perfect works of art and I wasn’t quite sure I could illuminate anything about the story that hadn’t been said by the source material. But over time I realized the marvelous characters invented by L. Frank Baum beg to be danced, and that so much could still be discovered using our metaphorical language of ballet. I’ve been living with this magical tale for so long, working on this ballet has been like coming home. And there’s no place like it…

– Septime Webre, Choreographer


It is morning on Uncle Henry and Aunt Em’s farm in Kansas and the farmhands goof off between chores, ignoring Dorothy, who feels unappreciated and dreams of a place far away. Their unpleasant neighbor, Miss Gulch arrives to complain about Dorothy’s little dog, Toto, threatening to take him away. Toto escapes and Dorothy runs away with him. On the road, Dorothy meets a showman, Professor Marvel, who urges her to return to the farm as a twister approaches.

Dorothy is lifted into the sky by the twister and travels for what seems like an eternity. Suddenly she plops to the ground with a thud. The twister has taken her to the Land of Oz, where she meets the Munchkins and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Dorothy’s bed has fallen upon the Witch of the East, killing her, and freeing the Munchkins from her power. As the Munchkins celebrate, the Wicked Witch of the West arrives to claim her sister’s magical ruby slippers and avenge her sister’s death. But in a flash, the ruby slippers appear on Dorothy’s feet, thwarting the Witch… for the moment. Dorothy wants to go home to Kansas. The Munchkins tell Dorothy that, surely the Wizard of Oz will help her, and she sets off down the Yellow Brick Road towards the Emerald City to find him.

Along the way, Dorothy and Toto meet three new friends who need help: a Scarecrow whose head full of straw; a Tin Man with an empty chest, and a Lion who is afraid of his own tail. Dorothy invites them to join her to see if the Wizard can help them too. When the Wicked Witch fails to intimidate Dorothy and her friends, she creates a beautiful field of poppies whose scent is poisonous. Glinda causes it to snow, and the poppies melt away, revealing the gates of the Emerald City. Dorothy and her friends boldly knock on the gates but the Guard with the Green Whiskers and his Assistant send them away.

– Intermission –

The Guard sees that Dorothy is wearing the ruby slippers and assumes she must be a person of great importance. He welcomes the friends into Emerald City. As they are preparing to meet the Wizard, the Witch flies by with another warning to Dorothy: give her those slippers! Unsettled, the group is led into the Wizard’s throne room where they ask for his help. He tells them that to prove themselves worthy of his assistance they must bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Dorothy and her friends depart in haste, and as they make their way to the Witch’s Castle, they are set upon by the Witch’s Winged Monkeys who capture Dorothy, The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, sneak into the castle to try to free Dorothy and Toto, who have been imprisoned by the Witch and the Winkies, her slaves. Amid the chaos, the Witch makes a grab for the ruby slippers and Dorothy defends herself by throwing a bucket of water on the Witch, who melts into nothingness. The friends take her broomstick and return to the Emerald City.

In the Throne Room, the Wizard is reluctant to help Dorothy and her friends, when Toto discovers a befuddled man behind an emerald wall: it turns out that the Wizard is a humbug. He’s not a wizard at all, but an ordinary man from Kansas who found himself in Oz after he lost control of his hot-air balloon. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion impatiently remind him that he promised to help them, but the Wizard points out that they don’t need his help–they have already shown brains, heart, and courage beyond measure. As for Dorothy, he tells her that he will take Toto and her to Kansas himself in his hot-air balloon. As they prepare to depart, Toto runs off, and Dorothy chases him, but it’s too late—the wind has already taken the Wizard, leaving Dorothy and Toto behind.

Glinda appears, telling Dorothy that her ruby slippers will take her home. Dorothy says farewell to her friends, and with the aid of the slippers, wills herself home.

Dorothy awakens to find herself at home in Kansas, with Toto asleep at her feet.

Storylines and visual elements from the classic motion picture are provided by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.
The ballet production of The Wizard of Oz is a joint commission by Colorado Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
World Premiere: Kansas City Ballet, October 12, 2018. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri

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