Theatre of Ballet Arts and Platteville Community Theatre will present the Bedtime Ballet production “Thumbelina” in November and December.
“Thumbelina” will be performed at the Mineral Point Opera House Saturday, Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 24 at 2:30 and 5 p.m., and at the Platteville Municipal Auditorium Saturday, Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2:30 and 5 p.m.
Based on the story by Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen, the ballet is about a tiny girl who has some interesting misadventures before finally returning home.
TOBA artistic director Summer Hamille of Mineral Point began work on the production 18 months ago.
“I started by researching the music to see if another ballet company had done a production,” she said. “I was disappointed to find that no music had been composed for this particular story ballet, except what Barry Manilow did for the Pixar movie and that clearly is unacceptable for use in a ballet. So I began listening to classical music every night to select musical compositions that would serve to help us “tell” the story. Then came the task of piecing it all together. There’s a challenge.”
Rehearsals have been held every weekend since Sept. 21 with cast members coming in at certain times to learn their choreography for a particular dance in the production.
“Even though the ballet isn’t as long as The Nutcracker, it’s still a very involved and somewhat complicated production,” said Hamille. “As an original ballet, we’re all learning together.”
The lead role of Thumbelina is shared by Kacey Gleason of Dodgeville and Mae Lubbe of Platteville. Other key roles in the ballet are Prince Cornelius, performed by Grace Friederick of Potosi and Evelynn Hendrick of Mineral Point; Mama Toad, danced by Jackie Wood of Shullsburg, and her Idiot Son performed by Calvin Hardy of Mineral Point; and the Lead Beetle, danced by Emma Murphy of Highland. An assortment of animals and insects, birds and fairies, turtle, lizard and fish add to the complement of friends that seek to help “Thumbelina.”
Open auditions were held in early September with a cast of 50 children and adults selected from Mineral Point, Potosi, Linden, Platteville, Dodgeville, Shullsburg, Muscoda, Highland, and as far away as Fennimore. Participants will be dancing roles as insects, animals, fairies, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and people.
"They are a talented and colorful cast that will entertain the audience — from the graceful ‘Thumbelina’ to the amusing characters, and lovable creatures — big and small,” said Emily Gleason of Dodgeville, a TOBA board member in charge of the cast. “This is one ballet that will make you smile.”
TOBA started out by trying to use backdrops and props from some of their other ballets, but production manager Mike Humke of Dodgeville didn’t feel it helped tell the story so he started fresh.
“I have been working on a set of scenery and props for ‘Thumbelina’ for over two months,” he said. “From a farm scene to ‘floating’ lily pads, a ‘flying” bee to a big thorn, it all needs to be built to fit the vision of the director. With such a long list, some of the scenes may still be drying as they hang in the theaters. I am hopeful everyone attending the shows will enjoy the hard work that has been put forth by dancers, supporting cast and the many people that will be working behind the scenes on this original production.”
“A brand new production means starting from scratch on costumes,” said Liz Heimerl of Platteville, costume manager for TOBA. “With over 50 separate characters and parts in this show, I find myself designing a wide variety of costumes for ‘Thumbelina,’ her Prince, the various characters they interact with, and a plethora of animals and insects. We plan to have fireflies that actually light up I am thankful for the help of my posse of helpers and hope you enjoy the ‘costume magic’ we are creating.“
“A new original production is exciting and a challenge for everyone involved. I can’t wait to see everything come together,” said Beth Graber of Mineral Point, board chairperson for TOBA. “A lot of hard work from everyone involved and support from our communities is what brings a production like this together. It is going to be another magical production presented by the Theatre of Ballet Arts bringing together dancers and non- dancers to promote the dance arts in Southwest Wisconsin.”
The ballet tells the story about a girl who is no bigger than her mother's thumb and feels all alone in the world knowing she is the only person her size. Her wish for a companion at last comes true when the prince of the fairies spies her dancing and appears before her.
However, Thumbelina’s life takes a twist when a mother toad — who also saw her dancing — kidnaps her and tries to make her a wife to her idiot son. Stranded on a lily pad, new friends help to save her. As she tries to find a way home she is again kidnapped by a beetle, but manages to escape. Winter overtakes her and a kindly mouse offers her shelter then tries to marry her off to a mole.
Meanwhile, the prince, who has been searching for Thumbelina, falls into the icy winter waters and freezes. Beetle henchmen find the prince and cut him out of the frozen pond. Little insects, seeking out the prince, come across him and thaw him out.
The prince learns the whereabouts of Thumbelina, and just before the marriage to the mole, arrives to do battle. Thumbelina runs away and, with the help of her bird friend Jacquima, finds the fairy kingdom where she is finally reunited with the prince and married. A joyful reunion ends the ballet with Thumbelina returning home to her mother.
“A grand imagination is required for this ballet,” said Graber. “Obviously we don’t have tiny people to represent Thumbelina and the fairies or giants to represent the mother. Nonetheless, it will be an entertaining production.”
Tickets are available online through brownpapertickets,com and locally at Berget Jewelers in Mineral Point and Driftless Market in Platteville.
Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Hans Christian Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen's popularity is not limited to children; his stories express themes that transcend age and nationality. His fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West's collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. They have inspired motion pictures, plays, ballets, and animated films.
Theatre of Ballet Arts is focused on raising the awareness of the cultural arts and committed to presenting the dance arts. It strives to increase public awareness of the cultural dance arts through education and informational events. It further seeks to develop an appreciation for and an understanding of the dance arts, accomplished by creating, producing and directing dance productions, and providing a vehicle for both professional dancers and non- professional dance students to perform on stage.