Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet (MMB) presents a new production of Charles Maple’s “Wizard of Oz” on April 2 and 3 at Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center in Jackson. Featuring Maple’s inventive choreography, exquisite costumes and dynamic sets, this presentation of the classic story is sure to please audience members of all ages.
Maple is a former soloist with American Ballet Theater and principal dancer with Basel Ballet in Switzerland. During his performing career he worked with such choreographers as George Balanchine, Antony Tudor and Jerome Robbins. He has danced with and been coached by such greats as Baryshnikov, Fernando Bujones and Rudolf Nureyev among others. Students of Maple have competed as finalists in prestigious competitions including the Prix de Lausanne, The Jackson International Ballet Competition and Youth America Grand Prix. In 1992 Maple began creating his own works and has created over 75 ballets, including “Alice in Wonderland,” which MMB produced in 2019.
MMB artistic director Jennifer Beasley is pleased to be working with Maple again. “Charles’s choreography represents a diversity of dance styles, yet it is rooted in the traditions of classical ballet,” says Beasley. “It is an excellent fit for our company. There are strong roles that challenge our principal dancers and soloists. The roles created for younger dancers offer significant stage time and provide them with the opportunity to hone their performance skills. It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work as well as lot of brains, heart and courage to bring this ballet to the stage. We cannot wait to present it to our community.”
Over 80 members of Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet will perform in the production that follows Dorothy from Kansas to Munchkinland and along the Yellow Brick Road to Oz, where she meets the Wizard. Accompanied by her smart, loyal and brave companions, and assisted by Glinda the Good Witch, Dorothy defeats the Wicked Witch and learns there is no place like home.
The role of Dorothy will be danced by MMB soloist Hallie Young of Brandon. MMB principal dancers Madeline Page of Madison and Brelyn Binkley of Brandon will appear as Glinda and the Wicked Witch, respectively. Eleanora Ellis of Brandon will fill the role of the Tin Man. Rebecca Trowbridge of Ridgeland will dance the role of the Lion, and Hart Maley of Jackson will appear as the Scarecrow. Ellis, Trowbridge and Maley are all soloists in the company.
“It’s been wonderful working with Mr. Maple again,” says Trowbridge, who performed the role of Tweedle Dum in 2018. “He’s been involved in every aspect from auditions to zooming with us during rehearsals. The choreography is fresh and challenging. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to strengthen my technique, and we are working hard to bring his vision to life.”
Trowbridge is excited about dancing the role of the Lion in part because her character’s development through the ballet is analogous to dancing with MMB. “The Lion starts out being timid and worried about making mistakes. As the ballet progresses he gets more confident; he relies on his friends to give him courage. We all start off unsure when we are first learning a dance, but through hard work and support from fellow dancers, we persevere and create a performance for everyone to enjoy.”
Maley comments that MMB real-life friendships strengthen the on-stage friendships between Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. “This cast is very tightly knit. We are all very good friends. So, it makes it easy to act and to really engage the audience in the performance.”
Following the performance, young audience members may step into Dorothy’s red shoes and travel to the Land of Oz. Young visitors to Oz will meet Dorothy, Glinda and other ballet characters for on-stage photo ops. Each young visitor will also receive a souvenir and light refreshments. Land of Oz tickets are sold separately from performance tickets. Accompanying adults receive complimentary admission to the Land of Oz.
Tickets for the ballet “The Wizard of Oz” are $30-35. Land of Oz event tickets are $15. On Saturday, April 2, the ballet performance will begin at 3 p.m. followed by the Land of Oz at 5 p.m. On Sunday, April 3, the ballet performance will begin at 2 p.m. with the Land of Oz following at 4 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit msmetroballet.com.
MMB is a pre-professional ballet company based in Madison, Mississippi. Members of the company are selected through audition from the over 500 students of Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy, the official school of MMB. Season sponsors for 2021-2022 include the Mississippi Arts Commission; Jackson Optimist Club; Gertrude C. Ford Foundation; Ergon; Eventful; Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi; Larry and Michael Johnson Family Foundation; Harper, Rains, Knight, and Company; The Pig & Pint; and Hilton Garden Inn Madison/Jackson.