ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

02/06/2016 - 05/06/2016

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

21/05/2016 - 21/05/2016

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

12/05/2016 - 14/05/2016

St James Theatre, Wellington

04/05/2016 - 08/05/2016

Municipal Theatre, Napier

11/06/2016 - 12/06/2016

Production Details

Presented by: Royal New Zealand Ballet


Created by RNZB Artistic Director Francesco Ventriglia in Florence in 2010, through an accident of fate, this charming two act ballet based on L. Frank Baum’s much-loved story of love, friendship, and the joy of coming home, was never performed.

Six years on, the world premiere of The Wizard of Oz is set to tour throughout New Zealand, with all the familiar characters brought to life in a beautiful design by Gianluca Falaschi. Music by Francis Poulenc sets the scene for a colourful staging that is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.

Join Dorothy on her journey to the Emerald City, and the friends and foes she encounters along the way, as she learns that quick wits, compassion and courage – and just a touch of magic – are inside us all.

Wellington Free events

Fri 6 May 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Pre-performance music or choreographic talks

Sat 7 May – Post-matinee
Q & A with artistic staff and dancers

Sat 7 May 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Warm Up, Curtain Up- watch the company prepare for its evening performance

Christchurch Free Events

Fri 13 May 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Pre-performance music or choreographic talks

Sat 14 May – Post-matinee
Q & A with artistic staff and dancers

Sat 14 May 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Warm Up, Curtain Up- watch the company prepare for its evening performance

Napier Free Event

Sat 11 June 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Warm Up, Curtain Up- watch the company prepare for its evening performance

See cast lists on Royal NZ Ballet website at


1hr 50mins

Artistic license provokes sighs

Review by Kim Buckley 13th Jun 2016

I love the story of The Wizard of Oz as much as the next person, but alarmingly, I find myself sighing a lot about halfway through the first Act. Artistic license is all well and good and this is a colourful, superbly danced, delightfully set, and mostly well-costumed work, but I feel the personal vision of Francesco Ventriglia has strayed a little too far from the well-known story’s true course for my liking.

I admit to not having ever read the book, but I have watched the original Judy Garland movie version at least 20 times in my life and I am disappointed by my own expectation that the ballet’s narrative should follow those familiar events.  In the end, I conclude I am watching choreography that is, as claimed, inspired by The Wizard of Oz, both that’s more or less where the relationship ends, even though  everybody eventually gets what they have journeyed for – a heart, a brain, courage and home.

There are some nice touches. The all encompassing blue cloudy sky surround is clever with doors revealing and hiding elements throughout the work. The poppies immediately and deliciously remind me of the sumptuousness and glamour of post-War House of Dior. The old fashioned tea cup and huge red balloons are absolutely enchanting and the audience around me twitters with delight. The neon-lit Emerald City is cheerful.

However, the hospital bed beginning, and the especially flat ending, provoked my eight-year-old son sitting beside me to ask the question  “Did Dorothy die..?” I think the melting of the Witch was disillusioned. The flying monkeys were almost in Gimp masks and the Tin Man’s costume reminds me of a cubist Nijinsky’s Faun (not a bad thing, but I want the Tin Man).

Too many times, I feel the chosen music is completely disharmonic with the choreography and characters. I find the choreography unstimulating and feel for the dancers as I know they are so capable of so much more. The pas de deux between Glinda and the Wizard seems too romantic, and the Porcelain Prince is way too amorous with Dorothy. I think the red noses are inappropriate to this piece and the red socks irrelevant.

 I look forward to an entirely original piece of work for our incredibly talented and virtuosic Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers via Ventriglia. I imagine this would showcase his personal vision without compromise.


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Women are the standouts in the Wizard of Oz

Review by Hannah Molloy 22nd May 2016

Let me start by saying I had been looking forward to seeing the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz since last year when they announced their 2016 programme. Their announcement sparked my curiosity as well as some nostalgia for one of my favourite childhood stories. Arriving at my seat, I was a little anxious in case I had over-anticipated.

I hadn’t. The Wizard of Oz was everything I wanted it to be in this quite abstract interpretation of that beloved story. The costumes were exquisite. The set was impressive in its scale. The music was romantic. The choreography was a magical blend of classical perfection with snippets of the looseness possible with other dance genres. The dancing was glorious – the dancers all looked as though they were thriving on the novelty of this work.

This version is loosely related to the plot lines and character personalities of the original story, which I think is suitable for a modern interpretation. It seems as though Artistic Director and Choreographer Francesco Ventriglia and Designer Gianluca Falaschi have chosen the elements of the written words that would translate most beautifully into movement. This works for me – I don’t expect movement-based interpretations of a written story to be literal, any more than my written review is a literal description of a ballet. I think this is a personal expression of how a story (or a ballet) makes the creators of the work feel and think. I like its abstraction and the adherence to the purity of beautiful movement and the generosity of the visual feast.

The women are the absolute standouts, though a couple of the men are also exceptional. Felipe Domingos dances the Guardian of the Emerald City, his feet positively sparkle, effervesce even, and he has that lightness of movement and being that I have always associated with beautiful male ballet. The Prince of Porcelain, William Fitzgerald, is graceful and strong – his role seems a little smug too, which he might well be, apparently having wooed both Glinda the Good Witch and his own Princess of Porcelain.

The three key males seem to have the personas of a range of ‘types’ that women theoretically fall for – the Scarecrow (Loughlan Prior) is a wheeler-dealer with a heart of gold; Tinman seems lost, a damaged man who just needs some loving to make him whole; and the Lion is, a saucy bad boy. Dorothy seems to fall for the bad boy but also seems to redeem him. This is almost a plotline, but a subtle one, enough to notice but not to distract from the dancing.

But the women. Lucy Green as Dorothy is her usual delicious self, dainty and expressive in a role that could have been created for her specifically. She has a knack of making you believe she is absolutely feeling the emotion showing on her face. Abigail Boyle as Glinda is graceful and fluid, her role flirtatious enough to stop it from becoming bland, and she threads the scenes together seamlessly. The ones I can’t take my eyes off are Laura Jones as the Porcelain Princess and Mayu Tanigaito as the Wicked Witch of the West. They are both spell-binding (sorry about the pun but there simply isn’t another word to use).

Jones is the epitome of elegance and classical balletic beauty and perfection. I find myself thinking, “This is what it’s supposed to be like”.

Tanigaito is so utterly strong and precise, her role as the evil witch played to perfection but also with some sympathy. She moves so powerfully but with such softness. I would have loved to have seen more of her in this. Her dancing somehow moves me more than that of many of the others.

I say enormous congratulations and thank you to the company, the artistic team and the technical team for the presentation of this show and I look forward to it becoming a regularly toured work.

(I would also like to add my congratulations to the marketing team for a flawless campaign.)


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Modernised fairy tale ballet

Review by Sheree Bright 13th May 2016

Through the sovereignty of timeless, universal themes, we are reminded that we already have what we need inside of us. Carrying this message, The Wizard of Oz has become embedded as part of our culture, especially through the popular 1939 MGM film based on the original 1900 book by L. Frank Baum in which he sought to create a “modernized fairy tale”.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Artistic Director and choreographer, Francesco Ventriglia, greatly inspired by a poignant childhood experience with the book, has chosen to follow the book more than the film adaptation. This has inherent risks, but Ventriglia dons his heart, brains and medal of courage, and forges ahead into the exciting world of creating a new story ballet.

This production of The Wizard of Oz was originally commissioned by Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, but in 2013 a collapsed ceiling post-dress rehearsal meant a disappointing cancellation while the theatre was repaired. Retrievable costumes and sets were packed up and eventually sent to New Zealand following in the footsteps of its creator, Francesco Ventriglia. New Zealand benefits by experiencing the world premiere originally intended for Italy. Michael Pansters compiles an interesting montage of music composed by Francis Poulenc, creating the musical atmosphere. The unique and intriguing interpretations of the fantasy worlds, through both sets and costumes, are designed by Gianluca Falaschi. 

Christchurch manages to show “There’s no place like home!” producing some natural excitement with a sharp 4.7 quake the evening before opening night, and on the day, blustery winds with small tornados reported in various locations around the South Island. The Christchurch patrons are undaunted: the foyer is crowded and when the lights dim, I cannot see an empty seat.

A young girl, Dorothy, lies quite ill in a hospital bed, supported by her loving Uncle Henry played by the wonderful Sir Jon Trimmer. The initial, seemingly random transition into a black and white beach scene, including black and white spiralling umbrellas, very accurately reminds me of my ether-induced hallucination during a childhood operation. (Maybe it’s not so random after all.) The twinkling lights of the art deco Emerald City and the 30’s inspired gorgeous costumes of its citizens are also a highlight. The stunning red poppies and the special effects representing their fragrant impact provide another.

Bronte Kelly brightly and beautifully dances the role of Dorothy, stuffed dog Toto at hand. Her endurance and her technical consistency through a diversity of  movement styles are commendable in this marathon role, as she is barely off stage long enough for quick costume (and shoe!) changes. The Scarecrow (Laughlan Prior), the Tin Man (Massimo Margaria), and the Lion  (Jacob Chown), each delightfully dances to life the characters that join her journey along the yellow brick road. The Guardian of the Emerald City (Felipe Domingos), skilfully fouettes a rejection to their initial approach.

For me, the Witches provide the most gratifying ‘Ahhh moment’ performances. Abigail Boyle, in her flowing butterfly-inspired gown, captivatingly plays Glinda, Witch of the North. With luxuriously graceful movements, she is sublime. Mayu Tanigaito, the Witch of the West, performs with powerful accuracy and punctuation in her black corseted costume. Her Flying Monkeys sweep across the stage bare-chested,wearing long, rustling black skirts, representing the beating of batwings. Charles McCall gives a strong performance as the Lead Flying Monkey.

The blue-and-white Kingdom of Porcelain is where a tight classical ballet format emerges. Dancers representing the Teacups and Coffee-cups move with crisp clarity in and out of formations wearing short, severely stiffened tutus. The Prince and Princess of Porcelain (William Fitzgerald and Laura Jones), adeptly display the delicate strength and smooth precision of porcelain. Somehow, William Fitzgerald also convincingly plays the green sequined, cunning Wizard, with a magical exit.

Satisfying pas de deux with various characters are threaded throughout the performance, too many to mention without creating a chapter. One example is the mischievous Mr. and Mrs. Wolf played by Paul Mathews and Veronika Maritati. Their creative lifts and comic interactions are well-timed and expertly characterised. More comic relief is given by Harry Skinner as the cheeky Yellow Cat after the quick-footed Pin-up Mice, Linda Messina and Tonia Looker.

One of the beauties of the world of dance is this ability to inspire multiple interpretations by artists and viewers. One audience member who hadn’t read the book, questions whether Dorothy’s final farewell into the light represents her transition into adulthood or her spirit moving on to another life?

As aptly stated by Zoë Anderson in The Ballet Lover’s Companion, “New works are always a risk, but there’s a new energy in the way ballet’s choreographers are experimenting, trying new things and old things, or different ways of combining them . . . It’s been a pattern of recovery and rediscovery, of absorbing change and developing from it.” Throughout time, there have been many social and political changes that affect the way artists create art. Ballet is no exception, going through its own cycles of experimentation and rediscovery.Audiences are delighting in the traditional ballet vocabulary mixed with other styles such as contemporary, jazz, tap and ballroom.

Some ballets have actually done better in the 21st century than in their own day. Sylvia created by Frederick Ashton in 1952 for the extraordinary muse, Margot Fonteyn, faded from the repertory when Fonteyn retired. In 2004, after 40 years, Ashton’s demanding choreography has been revived and is now challenging a new generation of ballerinas who enthusiastically stage it around the world.

A new work is rarely at its best the first time around. The chance to reflect and further refine or rework movements, sections, and transitions in a piece of choreography invariably enhances future performances. Even before the benefits of this kind of hindsight, there is no doubt that the mammoth endeavour of the RNZB’s The Wizard of Oz is already a crowd pleaser. The full house in Christchurch is enthusiastic, clearly enjoying the entertainment and appreciating the dancers’ offerings.With the inevitable refinements as this ballet version of The Wizard of Oz progresses through time, I’m sure even more heart and magic will be interwoven and revealed through this wonderful story. 


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A Wizard with ‘wow’ factor

Review by Ann Hunt 08th May 2016

Artistic Director/choreographer Francesco Ventriglia has adapted L. Frank Baum’s iconic children’s book into an ambitious and vibrantly imaginative two-act ballet with great appeal for all ages.

The overall flavour is very European and definitely has the “wow” factor. [More


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Gorgeous to look at

Review by Deborah Jones 07th May 2016

The Wizard of Oz has had quite a journey on its way to Royal New Zealand Ballet and the St James Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. The ballet was originally conceived for Florence’s MaggioDanza and got all the way to the dress rehearsal. Then the ceiling of the theatre fell in and opening night had to be abandoned. The work never made it to the Florence stage. Francesco Ventriglia, who choreographed The Wizard of Oz and was also MaggioDanza’s artistic director at the time, doesn’t mention in his RNZB program note that the bad luck in Florence continued. MaggioDanza operated under the umbrella of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and when drastic cost-cutting was needed, a decision was taken in 2013 to close the dance company. Finito.

But it’s an ill wind and all that. Ventriglia was unexpectedly at liberty to consider moving to RNZB when it was looking for an artistic director to succeed Ethan Stiefel, the American former dancer and choreographer who opted not to continue in Wellington after his initial three years was up. Ventriglia arrived in late 2014 to run the national ballet company so it was too late for him to have any impact on repertoire for 2015 (Stiefel programmed last year). In one sense, therefore, 2016 is Ventriglia’s debut. He started with a dynamic triple bill, Speed of Light, and has followed up with what he can legitimately call a world premiere. One of his own creations, The Wizard of Oz – now extended from one act to two – finally got that opening night.

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Too much of a good thing?

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 06th May 2016

When you rewrite a classic story, it is essential that the essence is retained and that it makes sense. The Lord of the Rings rewritten by Sir Peter Jackson is a case in point where this is brilliantly achieved and the films give audiences a technological dimension and a new awareness of the books. The original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L.Frank Baum is a well-known favourite story, and the quintessential movie plus a number of adaptations since then (The Wiz, Wicked, and so on….) have held true to the magic that we all have within us that is unleashed in this story – in all these versions, no matter how lacking in belief we are, there is a brain, a heart and courage to be found.

Somehow, in the ambitious personalised re-addressing of the Wizard of Oz story by choreographer / director Francesco Ventriglia, the personal heartfelt magic has been marginalised in a scenic extravaganza that does not always hold together. There are just too many unfinished scenes, exits and entrances, abrupt lighting cuts on short-lived tableaux, and a very confusing ending that leaves everyone wondering whether Dorothy has survived and whether her hospitalisation is for cancer? (I read the programme afterward, and apparently she is in a coma.) 

Red Nose Day is alive and well onstage and there is a tilt at Peter Blake’s Red socks. There are Munchkins in swimsuits and a fur-coated couple, possibly Mr and Mrs Wolf?? There is no cyclone and no Wicked Witch of the East, but there are red glitter shoes and a nod to a range of dance styles from ragtime to tap …. The essential white tutu ballet is there in a very meticulously danced but rather long  porcelain tea party, and the Tin Man has the most peculiar outfit!  It is possible to have just too much of a good thing, though the journey taken by the cast is pretty much true to the book.

The music is a compilation of recorded selections by Francis Poulenc. Some choices seemed appropriate but some do not work at all — the Wizard solo to organ music, for example,  was constraining in a variation full of entrechat six and grand elevation. The unevenness of the sound quality needs attention and it is too loud- perhaps if Uncle Henry (where was Aunt Em?) had pretended to start an old fashioned phonogram, the scratchy recording might have had a rationale, but there is none. With the array of music selected, a live orchestra is sorely needed.

The lead roles are strongly danced with crisp clarity and technical precision, and Lucy Green has the curiosity and wide-eyed anticipation perfect for an endearing Dorothy on her way to a very glitzy Showtime ‘ 20s style’ Emerald City.

There are some great performances in there – Loughlan Prior’s loose-limbed Scarecrow is beautifully nuanced and sustained and Jacob Chown as Lion finds a suitably blustery way to develop his courage. Mayu Tanigaito’s Witch of the West sizzles with split jetes, high leg lines and virtuoso vocabulary, but her melting disappoints and is not at all  the defining moment in the Scarecrow’s brain awakening as it is in the book. There are two lovely duets for Abigail Boyle – a picture book but rather sedentary Glinda, Witch of the North and a pas de deux with the Wizard, elegantly danced by William Green looking very svelte and green sequinned. Another notable pas de deux is for Dorothy (Lucy Green) and The Wizard. So, some lovely pas de deux moments and excellent partnering but both duets seem overly romantic for this particular story line.

The costumes by Gianluca Falaschi are a fashion parade come alive with exquisite detailing and storybook colours. The poppy dresses are divine, and Dorothy manages so many gingham costume changes it is a little disconcerting. 

Young dancers near me in the audience were bemused – the relationships between the characters need to be developed, and choreographically there was much overloading of steps and styles: this will settle and the work will find its own flow, breathing room and contrasting dynamics.

This Wizard of Oz will sell on the story and the name. It is an entertaining evening of indulgent fantasy and the company will relish the full houses they will undoubtedly get. 


John Smythe May 7th, 2016

The profligate use of red noses at the end of The Wizard of Oz, without the slightest hint of a clowning sensibility, strikes me as a trite misuse – and misunderstanding – of a centuries-old tradition. Had, for example, Uncle Henry commissioned three Clown Doctors to bring Dorothy out of her coma, had those three morphed into Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion with clowning conventions legitimately explored in their characterisations, and had they been the only ones to sport red noses at the end, it might have worked a treat. As it stands, however, it’s fatuous and meaningless. A world-class ballet company should know better.

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