Ballet show: Baker-Dillingham Oz is dazzling

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By Carol A. Clark

The dancers were swarmed like celebrities as they descended the stage following Friday's spectacular opening of the Wonderful WizThe dancers were swarmed like celebrities as they descended the stage following Friday’s spectacular opening of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz at Duane Smith Auditorium.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said Terra Hite. “I’ve never seen a Wizard of Oz performance where Toto and the poppies along the brick road were real people.”

Other audience comments heard Friday evening included, “Weren’t the dancers fantastic?” “The tornado scene blew me away,” “The costumes were incredible, “I couldn’t believe the beautiful music and lighting and the technical aspects were just amazing,” “Susan is a genius - she’s really out done herself.”

“Susan” of course is Susan Baker-Dillingham who founded The New Mexico Dance Theater School and Performance Company in August 2004. Since that time she has created one grand production after another.

Baker-Dillingham has an innate ability to match dancer to character. In her current production, she cast the beautifully talented Natasha Roberts in the starring role as Dorothy. The Los Alamos High School senior danced her way into the hearts of the audience with her angelic face, graceful moves and protective demeanor towards her little dog Toto.

Baker-Dillingham’s casting of Toto was another perfect fit. “It’s all to do with Susan who has really brought up Akane’s talent,” said Chikako Dunn, beaming after her 10-year-old daughter Akane Dunn’s endearing performance as Toto.

Akane’s father, Mark Dunn, gave a wonderful performance as the Tin Man and her brother, Justin Dunn, did a great job dancing with the marvelous casts of both Munchkins and Flying Monkeys.

Chelsey Smith stood out in her role as Queen of the Poppies and in other featured dance scenes in which her beautiful expression and sheer joy of dance were clearly evident.

Baker-Dillingham also cast a perfect Michael Roybal as the Scarecrow and Chris Jeffery as the heartwarmingly timid Lion.

Bruce Lamartine hit his marks with distinction as Uncle Henry and in his role as the Wizard of Oz.

Both Bethany Sullivan as the Good Witch of the North and Larissa Fortson as the Wicked Witch of the West gave charming performances.

Each of the many dancers who filled the stage throughout the 90-minute production were a joy to behold and added to the evening’s overall success.

Accolades also go to a very talented team of NMDT staff including Rehearsal Mistress Selena Offenberg, Props coordinators Andie Kysar and Winnie Lamartine and Sound Master Holger Waschinski. Costume Mistress Kenda Bultman and her crew of talented seamstresses created a stage full of exquisite costumes. The sensational set was designed by Holly Hass and Winnie Lamartine and set construction was completed by Haas, Lamartine, Clay Dillingham, Andie Kysar and Bruce Lamartine.

Auditorium Manager Ross Mason did an outstanding job with lighting design, not to mention his impressive transformation of the entire auditorium into a source of community pride.

From the opening number in Kansas, which evolves into a wild and wonderful tornado scene, to the stunning crimson poppy scene to the breathtaking Emerald City finale, Baker-Dillingham’s stage adaptation of the famed 1939 MGM movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” is highly recommended for adults and children alike.

The final performance takes place at 2 p.m. today.