A ballet company from New York City is coming to Augusta for the first time — to help the Imperial Theatre celebrate a whopping 100 years this February. It’s actually the ballet company’s first time to perform in all of Georgia; despite having been down to Florida several times, they’ve never even put on a show in Atlanta!
The theater’s executive director, Charles Scavullo, is excited to have Ballets with a Twist in town to help commemorate the big milestone.
“The thought was to have a fun event to kick off 100th anniversary activities, and tie that into some sort of a culturally oriented event that would have some basis on what we normally do here at the theater and would be a fun kind of a show,” Scavullo said.
The classically trained company will be putting on their signature show: “Cocktail Hour: The Show” at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2.
Ballets with a Twist aims to entertain a broad audience. The company’s founder and Artistic Director Marilyn Klaus elaborated about the show.
“The feeling is that people all over the world understand the sort of essences of social beverages, and a lot of these cultural types of cocktails make references to times or places or countries, and so when an audience sits down to take the show in, they immediately can relate to the experience,” Klaus said. “It’s not a very ancient fairytale that they may never have heard of.
“For instance, our martini piece is a real James Bond reference, which I have to say, everybody has seen those films. And those films have been popular for 20, 30 years, so while our score for that is original, it definitely is an homage to the Bond theme song. And we have it switched up a little bit where the protagonist, the super spy, is a blonde bombshell, and she has three G-Men who accompany her throughout her adventures. And these pieces are very, very quick, also to go along with sort of the modern attention span.”
Klaus, who grew up with a father who was a social ballroom dancer in a home where her parents converted their den into a dance studio/social club, has been working on and tweaking “Cocktail Hour: The Show” for decades. Each segment is based on a different drink (not all of them are alcoholic — there is a country-Western vignette based on the Roy Rogers, a kid-friendly concoction made of cola and grenadine with a maraschino cherry). Klaus said the segments range from two minutes all the way to 15 minutes, with the show lasting more than an hour, divided by an intermission.
The company has written vignettes for about 27 different drinks, which means they can go back to a venue where they’ve already performed it and do a completely different production of “Cocktail Hour: The Show.” Klaus said they try to tailor the shows to the area where they’re performing. For example, they are saving the Cuba Libre vignette for Latin audiences in Florida, during their upcoming stop in Delray Beach. For the upcoming Augusta show, the last segment they’re doing seems meant to be for the town.
“We’re closing the show with Holy Water, which a lot of it surprisingly and interestingly enough is an homage to James Brown,” Klaus said. “I adore James Brown’s music; our composer does, as well, so there was no way we were going to go to Augusta, Georgia, without closing with Holy Water.”
The company also reached out to the Academy of Richmond County Purple Pride Marching Band, which has been working on music for the show for a couple of months and will be at the Imperial Theatre to accompany the dancers in a big way.
Klaus started working with the company’s composer, Stephen Gaboury, in the 1980s and ’90s before forming Ballets with a Twist in 1996. The company has done shows with big names including Cyndi Lauper. Ballets with a Twist premiered “Cocktail Hour: The Show” in November 2009. The show consists of 14 dancers, and the company is still working on more vignettes to showcase in the future.
At the Augusta show, the Imperial plans to sell some of the cocktails that are featured in the production. There also will be an after-party hosted by the Augusta Ballet, with a meet and greet featuring dancers.
The Imperial Theatre has more events planned throughout the year to commemorate 100 years (the official anniversary is Feb. 18). Details are still being worked out, but the theater is planning a Hat Party on May 4 — a day before the Kentucky Derby, hence the hats. That event will include a screening of the Marx Brothers’ film “A Day at the Races.” Then in September, the Columbia County Ballet will present their production of “Cinderella,” with proceeds from that performance going toward the Imperial’s capital improvements fund. Finally, in November, the theater will have some sort of an event related to the 100 years since the ending of World War I.