Oklahoma City Ballet closed its 2011-12 season with a family friendly and thoroughly charming version of “The Wizard of Oz.” With music composed by Kermit Poling (who also conducted the Oklahoma City Philharmonic), choreography by Jacob Sparso and special flying effects by ZFX, opening night's near sellout audience enjoyed a magical evening.
The ballet closely followed the familiar story, beginning in Kansas with Dorothy, in this performance danced by Stephanie Foraker Pitts, and Toto, played by a cute little scene-stealing dog named Paris. Each of the farmhands had lighthearted variations filled with jumps and turns, while Dorothy swirled and glided across the stage in her pointe shoes and blue checked dress.
The tornado scene that followed was well done, with effects created by lighting and whirling, funnel-shaped fabric. The arrival in Oz was signaled not only by new and colorful sets, but by Toto's delightful transformation to a little girl (Christina Wornick) in a fuzzy dog costume.
Glinda, danced by Miki Kawamura, soared onstage in her pink bubble and enchanted the audience with her beautiful arabesques and pirouettes as her pink romantic tutu floated gently around her.
The evening's Wicked Witch was danced by Sarah Chun, who, while a gorgeous dancer, could have been more intimidating in this role. The Scarecrow (Josh Crespo), Tin Man (Anton Iakovlev) and Cowardly Lion (David Barocio) all did an excellent job. Barocio was given ample opportunities to showcase his gift for comedy as well as his technical proficiency.
Students from the Oklahoma City Ballet's dance center played Munchkins and Flying Monkeys, all danced with great enthusiasm. Company dancers performed the roles of Poppies in a brief but especially lovely interlude. Yui Sato danced the role of the Wizard of Oz, rising to the challenge of a demanding solo variation.
Sparso's choreography had a nice blend of classical technique with just enough familiar, not strictly ballet movement, to feel comfortable to audience members accustomed to the popular movie.
The Oklahoma City Ballet continues to develop an exciting and varied repertoire, with well-known classical works, contemporary ballets and story ballets fun for the whole family.
— Kathleen Redwine