March 23, 2011
Charleston Ballet brings 'Pinocchio' to life (video)
Chip Ellis
Rhiannon Turley as the fairy princess casts a spell on Pinocchio, granting the puppet's wish to become human. Brigette Madden portrays Pinocchio in the Charleston Ballet production.


"Pinocchio" world premiere

Presented by the Charleston Ballet

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

WHERE: Civic Center Little Theater

COST: Adults $20, students and seniors $15 in advance; $5 more at door.

INFO: Email or call 304-342-6541. Tickets also available at the Civic Center Box Office.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Composer and pianist Evan Mack regularly attended his nieces' annual ballet performances of  "The Nutcracker" with the Chattanooga Ballet, but he thought it was a shame to wait a year between ballet performances that children could enjoy.

Two years ago, he decided to change that. He composed a ballet score set to the story of Pinocchio.

"I was looking for something fantastical like 'The Nutcracker' for ballets," he said. "I was looking for a story to explore that would expand families' opportunities to see ballet in a spring performance."

The larger-than-life adventures of the wooden marionette that comes to life seemed the perfect story to draw children into the ballet, both as young performers and as audience members. The Charleston Ballet will stage the show's world premiere at the Civic Center Little Theater this weekend.

"The goal was to engage adults as well as to expose children to the many styles of music," Mack said. "They'll hear jazz, large classical music and even some higher end popular sound."

The Charleston Ballet's performance of "Pinocchio" requires 13 scene and costume changes, but it could have been worse, says artistic director and program choreographer Kim Pauley, who read the book in preparation for the production.

"We're doing the highlights, not all the adventures," she noted.

Mack's composition depicts the original book, not the sanitized Walt Disney version of the tale. As is the case with most children's books written in the 1800s, the story holds many lessons for children about making the right choices.

The consequences of poor decisions were a little harsher in the book than in Disney's version. For instance, in the book, Pinocchio actually squashes the cricket, which bears little resemblance to the cartoon Jiminy Cricket.

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