Let’s be honest. Ballet? Not that exciting. Tom Sawyer? Also not exactly a thriller. Tom Sawyer, a ballet in three acts? You’d expect this to be about the dullest snooze-fest ever.
I thought that too.
This year the Kansas City Ballet is opening the brand new Kauffman Center with their original ballet based on Mark Twain’s classic, composed by Maury Yeston and Directed/Choreographed by William Whitener.
“Hey, Kim. I got tickets for the ballet this Friday night. So cancel your plans”
Crap. Thanks, Mom.
I wasn’t really looking forward to spending my Friday night watching grown men prance around pretending to be young boys but, even then, that is a little hypocritical since I do watch Big Time Rush, which is practically the same thing. What I was looking forward to was getting to roam around the beautiful Kauffman Center.
It was stunning. The moment we emerged from the parking lot, we were overwhelmed with the huge glass structure that seems to loom and lean out over you. Through the glass I saw the bright whites of the walls and the different levels, looking over the room like balconies. Standing inside the building gazing around, I was struck with the intense feeling that I was on a huge ship. The different levels were lined with people, mostly dressed in black overlooking the rest of the room, which were remnant of ship decks.
After climbing a red-carpeted spiral staircase, I was standing at the edge of one of the levels overlooking the entire city through the breathtaking slanted sheets of glass. I felt as if I was staring off the end of a boat staring into the dark ocean that is the skyline of Kansas City.
When it was time for the performance, we walked to our seats in the mezzanine and took in the beautiful theater. It was smaller than I expected but it was full of gorgeous treated gold metal paneling over the balconies and tin paintings that illuminated as the house lights turned on and disappeared when they were dimmed for the performance.
The performance itself was amazing. The set was enough to make you catch your breath. Throughout the performance huge set pieces were flown in and out creating the maximum sense of transportation from scene to scene. In one scene, at least a hundred, old fashion oil lamps were floating through the air, illuminating Huck and Tom as they followed Injun Joe through the graveyard.
Now to the dancing. Okay, ballet? No offense, I took it for 7 years, kinda dull. But “Tom Sawyer” managed to merge intricate ballet with crazy gymnastic stunts keeping the show interesting and entertaining. The dancers spent the majority of their time dancing in group numbers that often entangled the dancers into complicated shapes and patterns, which made you stop and think- “wait… what..?”
As far as storyline goes. Tom Sawyer? Yeah, don’t remember anything from that book. He washed a fence right? Well, whether or not you have read the book (or Sparknoted it), this ballet is easy to follow and their use of special effects, music, lights and set guide you along. From the moment the curtain rises you are whisked away on all of Twain’s adventures right there next to Tom and Huck; rafting down the Mississippi, crashing their own funeral, witnessing murder, bring justice to a corrupt court trial, running through graveyards, and finding treasure after escaping the depths of a dark cave- ya know? The usual. Worth a Friday night at least.