In celebration of its 60th year, Tulsa Ballet will premiere Dorothy and the Prince of Oz. Adapted from the 14th book in L. Frank Baum’s series, this $1 million production won’t include a walk along the yellow brick road, but it will showcase a familiar cast of characters.
Audiences “will love this production, and they’re going to be enamored and taken in by the story,” choreographer Edwaard Liang says, “but I just want to make sure the audience isn’t disappointed that they aren’t seeing the first book and that they’re not going to hear ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’”
Dorothy and the Prince of Oz is a co-production between Tulsa Ballet and BalletMet, from Columbus, Ohio, where Liang is the artistic director. Liang and Marcello Angelini, Tulsa Ballet’s artistic director, have worked on this ballet for nearly three years. It features the work of costume designer Mark Zappone, composer Oliver Peter Graber, and Basil Twist, the MacArthur Genius Award recipient who created the sets and puppets.
“It has been at great lengths that we really balance out this production,” Liang says. “I think it has humor, and I think it has amazing sets and costumes. I think it’s a spectacle, especially with the puppetry. I don’t think anybody has ever seen this type of imaginative, inventive puppetry. It’s not like puppetry that you’re going to see in an amusement park. It’s a very dramatic journey, and it’s passionate, and it’s intense, and it touches on all different parts of emotion, from joy of dance to obsession to control to death.”
Even though this isn’t The Wizard of Oz that audiences have grown accustomed to, Liang is optimistic that the production will encourage more people to come to the ballet.
“I think that this is such an iconic piece of American history,” he says. “So, I’m hoping that this story will bring new audiences and also be able to inspire the audiences that we have. These are the productions that I think both Marcello and I are extremely passionate about because we need to find more ballets that are great entry points for the community and audiences beyond The Nutcracker.”
Liang says he is honored that this ballet is part of the 60th celebration because he and Angelini share a vision for ballet companies.
“This is a new world premiere. We’re trying to find inventive ways to tell a story,” Liang says. “[The] first aim is to create great art and with great art and great repertoire and with great ballets you attract world class dancers. When you attract world class dancers to dance this great art, you attract more patrons. You attract more audience. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we do what we do so that people can see and get touched, moved, and inspired by what we do, hopefully. That means that there’s hopefully more funding for the ballet companies, and then we put it back to the great art, so it’s this virtuous cycle.”