For the Munchkins
The Wizard of Oz Ballet
How do you get a room full of kids to sit still and be quiet? Well, if you’ve ever seen The Wiggles, Teletubbies or Blue’s Clues, you know the key is music and a bunch of people dancing in colorful outfits.
That’s just one reason to take them to see Ballet Nevada’s production of The Wizard of Oz Ballet.
Ballet Nevada, which formed in 2006, is the studio company for Ballet Nevada Performing Arts, which offers classes for all ages in ballet, tap, jazz and voice. It offers BNPA students, and students from schools around the area, the opportunity to perform in professional quality ballets. By performing shortened, narrated versions of beloved storybook classics, the company hopes to help make ballet more accessible and appreciated by the general public. The Wizard of Oz certainly accomplishes this.
Company director/instructor Ramona Cachinero also directs, choreographs and stars as Dorothy in this show. A former student of the Nevada Festival Ballet School and the Joffrey Ballet School, Cachinero has danced professionally throughout the United States and Australia. She is a pleasure to watch in this production, which is in no way a kids’ ballet recital. Several local professional dancers appear here, including Marty Lewis, an internationally known choreographer and dancer, in a dual role as Dorothy’s Uncle Hunk and the Scarecrow. Other noteworthy performances include Raye Busey as Toto, Rachel Hinen as the Tin Man, and Lucy Dugan, who is fantastic and funny as the Lion.
The big news, though, is that this may be your only chance to see a real live Munchkin: Gerald Pierce, who played one in the 1939 film, is our narrator.
The show is broken into bite-sized chunks that make it easy for kids to watch. The original story is heavily abridged, so that only the major plot points are covered and then broken into about a dozen manageable segments. Pierce reads a segment at a time, and then the curtain opens for the dancers to perform that piece of the story. The story mirrors the movie, yet with dance instead of dialogue.
The best part of the show is the costumes, which were designed by Cachinero herself and make watching the show fun. The Wicked Witch, Scarecrow and Lion costumes are especially enticing, although there are so many great, small touches, like the sparkling green sequins that embellish the tutus worn by the citizens of Emerald City. And these Munchkin costumes—flowerpots as hats!—are absolutely priceless.
Although there is professional dancing, this show really does target kids—I wouldn’t recommend it for a date or anything. I was frustrated that the families in the audience didn’t know it was appropriate to applaud after solos, so the silence was deafening in places. Please take note of this and clap with your kids when you go. Teach them early.
Pierce reads a bit slowly, and it’s somewhat hard to hear him at times (not that it matters much—you know the story), but it’s still neat to see him there. On the day I went, the audience was invited to talk with Pierce after the show, so if you want to know what it’s like to be a Munchkin, this is your chance to find out.
This is a fun way to spend the day with your kids—much better than spending it with those obnoxious Wiggles.