Royal NZ Ballet puts a twister on The Wizard of Oz Opening at Wellington’s St James Theatre next week, and touring nine centres from Auckland to Invercargill, The Ryman Healthcare season of The Wizard of Oz is a two act ballet with design by Gianluca Falaschi and jazz age, cinematic music by Francis Poulenc. Inspired by L Frank Baum’s much loved story of friendship, love, and growing up, all the favourite characters feature, with a RNZB twist. For a young Ventriglia, The Wizard of Oz meant more than just a bedtime story. It was told to him as a way of understanding a difficult time in his childhood, when he was admitted to a children’s hospital for six months with a skin condition, at the tender age of five. Born into a traditional, Catholic family on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Ventriglia stayed at the hospital with his moth, away from his hometown.
“Every afternoon, performers would come to entertain the kids and it was my first experience with the art form of ballet and music, because I didn’t have any contact with artists back home, I was fascinated.” Every day, he would follow his mother to another ward where she would visit the parents of a little girl in isolation. “I remember looking at her on the other side of the glass, and it was probably was the first time I fell in love in my life, because I would wait all day for this journey to go into another building to see this little girl.” One morning, the little girl was no longer there. “Obviously, I now know she died, but in the moment I asked where she was, and because I was so young they didn’t tell me in that moment she died, they told me she started a journey to Oz. “So my mum and the doctors, and her parents told me about The Wizard of Oz and this story became incredible for me.”
Special ‘Oz’ events coming to Figge With “The Wonderful World of Oz” exhibit opening June 12, many visitors will be off to see the wizard this summer at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum. Drawn from the largest collection of Oz memorabilia in the world — more than 100,000 items, owned by Willard Carroll and Tom Wilhite — the 110 pieces coming to the Figge include the finest known copy of the first edition of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book; original sketches, costumes and props from the 1939 movie; and Oz spinoffs such as puppets, toys and posters from related movies. Highlights include the hourglass the Wicked Witch used to show Dorothy how much time she had left, an original Munchkin costume for one of the Lollipop Guild trio, and Judy Garland’s screen-test dress.
Related special events will include: — Saturday, June 11: A gala Oz-themed fundraiser at the Figge, attended by Mr. Carroll and Mr. Wilhite. Guests will tour the exhibit and are encouraged to come in costume. The $125-per-person admission will include an open bar, dinner and live auction, with proceeds going to the museum’s education outreach.
— Sunday, June 12: Mr. Carroll, an Emmy-winning producer, will give a talk exploring Oz’s “indelible impact on every aspect of popular culture,” according to the Figge.
— Thursday, July 21: Paula Amad, cinematic-arts chair at the University of Iowa, will talk about the influence “The Wizard of Oz” has had on filmmaking.
— Thursday, Aug. 11: John Fricke — noted Oz and Judy Garland historian, Emmy-winning producer, and author of a book on the collection — will discuss facts, fictions and secrets behind the making of the MGM film.
— Saturday, Aug. 13: Mr. Fricke will host screenings of the movie at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Adler Theatre. They will be rare 35-mm presentations, using one of very few prints made in 1998 by Warner Bros. and Technicolor. “This print is completely beautiful,” and much different from typical versions, Mr. Schiffer said.