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Dancers delight, audiences donate to DHR in Peter and the Wolf production

Duck (center, Xada Ingram) makes a triumphant return at the end of PATW, flanked by Cat (Riley Campbell), Grandfather (Sonya Rice) and Peter (Amber Smith).

Duck (center, Xada Ingram) makes a triumphant return at the end of PATW, flanked by Cat (Riley Campbell), Grandfather (Sonya Rice) and Peter (Amber Smith).

It was a really big show.

With a cast of more than 90, a bevy of colorful costumes and  character makeup, a delightful orchestral score by Prokofiev, narration recorded by pop icon David Bowie and special effects that ranged from floating storybooks to fluffy snow, Sonya’s Dance Studio’s production of “Peter and the Wolf” proved a memorable experience for local audiences last Friday and Saturday at the Ritz. The dancers also got a chance to perform for all of the city’s

elementary students with back-to-back truncated shows on Thursday morning, performing the principal portion of the ballet no less than five times in just three days. After six weeks spent in studio and on stage preparing for the special holiday event, those initial shows for the youngsters served as a sort of unofficial dress rehearsal for the weekend’s performances.

“I tell my dancers to behave like young professionals when they are on this stage, and they really were troupers,” studio owner and dance teacher Sonya Rice said with a proud smile.

Principal dancers– adventurous young Peter (Amber Smith), the flighty, brilliantly-plumed Bird (Xada Ingram), wily tuxedo Cat (Riley Campbell), feisty Duck (Kimball Nall) and menacing Wolf ( resident artist Courtney Rice, who also choreographed the five main dancers) fully inhabited their storybook characters. Sonya Rice also appeared in the cast as Peter’s gruff, protective grandfather. Each character was also represented by a different instrument or group of instruments in the orchestra, “a wonderful way to introduce children to the orchestra,” Rice told the audiences.

Rice’s Creative Movement class of three- and four-year-old dancers donned pastel wings and waved gleaming wands as magical creatures in a prologue to Prokofiev’s classic tale. The Christmas-set opening sequence also featured studio alumnae Erica McNaughton and Tori Bailey and youngsters Camden Campbell and Blake Slagley.

Other dancers literally set the scene on stage throughout the ballet, with Pre-Ballet students in “stone” makeup and black caps and leotards serving as the Stone Wall; Intermediate Ballet students, clad in verdant frocks and wigs, dancing as the Great Green Meadows; Beginning Ballet dancers performing in retro blue and white bathing costumes as the Deep Blue Pond, and Jazz students clad in camo masks and woodland prints serving as the Dark Forest.

Additional Jazz students performed as the eager black-clad Hunters, hoping to claim the great, grey wolf for themselves.  However, Peter and his woodland friends showed that brains could beat bullets by capturing the wolf and getting him to the zoo, alive and kicking. There were cheers when Duck, who was earlier swallowed whole by that dastardly Wolf, gave the creature such indigestion she popped right back out to shake her tail feathers for the crowd. As the performers took their bows, snow began to fall upon the stage and the dancers shouted a resounding “Merry Christmas!”

“I thought it was a great show, a lot of fun. The kids did really well,” said audience member Amy Killough, a sentiment echoed by a number of attendees. After each show this weekend, Rice and daughter Courtney gave away a number of door prizes donated by local businesses to audience members.

Those who took home door prizes were not the only winners that night.

PATW also went a long way towards providing some area youngsters with a merrier Christmas morning this year.

“I wanted to do something that would be a great treat for audiences at Christmastime right here in Greenville, something that hopefully we will present every year. And I wanted it to be for charity,” Sonya Rice explained.

So, Rice joined forces with the Butler County Department of Human Resources (DHR) to request Ritz patrons bring new unwrapped toys to the lobby Friday and Saturday nights to donate to the department’s Christmas program. 

And patrons answered the call.

“Wow!” Rice told the audience before the Saturday night production. “I was hoping our corral out front would be running over by the end of Saturday night. I want you to know it was already overflowing before Friday night ended. This is just great.”

Rice’s husband, Ron, said on Saturday night that the family was “overwhelmed” by the enthusiastic response they had to the request for toy donations.

“We just kept emptying that corral of things last night . . . and there are a lot of nice toys, too. Things that I know cost much more than a ticket to the show would have cost them. We really do appreciate the community’s generosity and also all the businesses who donated the door prizes,” he said.

By the end of the evening on Saturday, the toy corral was overflowing yet again.

“I am going to be delivering a LOT of toys come Monday,” Ron Rice said with a grin.