Originally created 04/27/01

Song and dance

The Augusta Opera and the Augusta Ballet are going Hollywood.

Joining forces for the first time, the arts organizations will present Song and Dance at the Movies, opening Wednesday at the Imperial Theatre.

The three-act production will open with a new ballet by the Augusta Ballet's Peter Powlus, based on the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire.

"This is actually a story we've been talking about doing for years," Mr. Powlus said. "The setting of New Orleans is great, and the Alex North score is just incredible. There is just so much there. Also, our being in the South and this being a Southern story make it a perfect fit."

The second act will feature opera arias that have appeared in various films. A favorite device among filmmakers, opera pieces have appeared in films as diverse as The Bridges of Madison County, Moonstruck, Driving Miss Daisy, Guarding Tess and The American President. Whittling down the list to a manageable few was the job of Augusta Opera artistic director Edward Bradberry.

"I had a big list that I had to tailor to the voices we were working with," he said. "For instance, we have a woman who does a fabulous job with La Boheme, but she doesn't have a heavy enough voice for Madame Butterfly. So how it worked was we found out what the available materials were, booked that talent and then worked from there."

The most challenging aspect of the production has been the third act, which pays tribute to the music and dance of the classic Hollywood musical West Side Story. It is during this section that Song and Dance becomes a collaboration in the purest sense of the word.

"That really started with understanding and acceptance of how other kinds of disciplines work," Mr. Bradberry said. "The way dancers work and the way singers work couldn't be more different, and I think when we started we might have been overly cautious. We didn't want to step on toes or anything. Now I think we are being more ourselves and are ready to get things done."

Zanne Colton, the Augusta Ballet's artistic director, said she hopes that Song and Dance at the Movies will be just one of many collaborations Augusta audiences will see. By joining forces, she said, the ballet and opera have been able to excel both artistically and logistically.

"We're really stepping out together, and I hope there will more of these collaborative efforts," she said. "Artistically, there have been wonderful challenges, but there have also been great opportunities administratively and financially. We've found that if we both come to the table with problems and challenges, we get better answers."

The greatest challenge for the artists has involved the technical aspects of the show. The performance will also feature film clips, stills and live television feeds shown on large screens.

"We're adding an entirely new dimension with the technical aspects of this show," Ms. Colton said. "This is something none of us have ever tried before. We're all stepping into new territory. It's been fun, though."

On stage

What: Song and Dance at the Movies, presented by the Augusta Opera and the Augusta Ballet

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5; 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6

Where: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.Admission: $12-$40. Call 261-0555.

Reach: Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626.


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