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KC Ballet and Tony Award-winner to transform ‘Tom Sawyer’ into new ballet

Artistic Director William Whitener of the Kansas City Ballet
Artistic Director William Whitener of the Kansas City Ballet
Sam Eubank, Aren't We Clever agency

In what is being billed as the first full-length ballet based on an American literary masterpiece, the Kansas City Ballet, in association with Tony Award(c)-winning composer Maury Yeston and a team of performing arts pros, will adapt the Mark Twain classic Tom Sawyer into a three-act ballet, it was announced at a press conference today.

Composer Yeston; KCB Artistic Director and choreographer for Tom Sawyer William Whitener; KCB Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley; and several officials from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, KCB’s soon-to-be home, all spoke with enthusiasm at the event. The Ballet’s entire 2010-12 season, its first in the Kauffman Center, was also revealed.

“The wit and beauty within Mr. Yeston’s music, and the charm and playfulness of Mark Twain’s novel, make an ideal match for ballet,” Whitener said.

Yeston’s wide range of activities has brought him from the Broadway stage (winning the Tony Award (c) for Best Score of a Musical for Titanic and Nine); to the classical music stage (composing the choral An American Cantata—2000 Voices, for the Kennedy Center); and into the world of academia (holding a doctorate from Yale and publishing music theory texts for the Yale Press).

At the conference—held in the Webster House, an ornate 1888 schoolhouse just down the hill from the rising Kauffman Center—Yeston played several excerpts from his score for Tom Sawyer. They included a romantic theme centering on Tom Sawyer's love for Becky, as well as a haunting tribute to Midwestern summers--the “Firefly Dance”--and a glorious ending piece.

In addition to the historic Tom Sawyer premiere, which will run for eight performances beginning October 14, 2011, and promises to bring the dance world to Kansas City, the rest of KCB season also looks to be a winner: In February 2012 is a full length version of Ib Anderson’s Romeo and Juliet set to the Prokofiev’ score, and in May there will be a program dedicated to the masters of American dance, including Balanchine (a personal favorite of Whitener), Jerome Robbins, and former Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Todd Bolender. The traditional holiday presentation of The Nutcracker rounds out KCB’s 2011-12 season.

Season subscriptions are now available by contacting the KCB box office at (816) 931-2232, or by visiting KCB’s website at


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