Francesco Ventriglia's telling of Dorothy and her journey along the yellow brick road opens under a wide, fresco sky. But in this version, little Dorothy sets out from a hospital bed, a vivid childhood memory for its creator and the place where he first came across L. Frank Baum's original tale.
So the stage is set for a dreamlike experience where fantastical scenes arise with little logical explanation or continuity. A dozen or more pieces lifted from works by French composer Francis Poulenc form the score, relentlessly cinematic and, again, less than coherent.
There is no doubt Ventriglia, as the new artistic director, has made his mark on the company's artistic style and the dancers all exhibit a new level of technique: impressive but formal, very controlled and most classically correct. Madeleine Graham as the Princess of Porcelain and her cohorts, beautifully costumed in blue and white tutus, with Lucy Green as Dorothy, her usual gingham pinafore transformed in this scene, epitomise this structured, doll-like style.
Mayu Tanigaito, with bald head and black corset, takes the technique and herself to new heights of excellence as the wicked Witch of the West, with viperfish precision and whiplash speed creating a truly magical characterisation and a dark heart to anchor all the sweetness and light.
Green brings a sunny innocence to the role of Dorothy, and remains pointe and pitch perfect throughout her marathon workload. Abigail Boyle is all pastel grace and girlish gorgeousness with newly cropped hair as Glinda, the good Witch of the North.
First hit from Gianluca Falaschi's stunning '20s-themed design sees the Munchkins gambolling at the seaside. Black and white sun umbrellas twirl and - lo! - we meet the Scarecrow, a deliciously goofy Loughlan Prior, Massimo Margaria's cleverly jointed Tinman, and Lion, a splendidly dreadlocked and bearded Jacob Chown who seems born for this role, as they make their way along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.
Full houses throughout this world premiere season indicate the wide popularity of The Wizard of Oz. This version ticks all the boxes vital to the tale but misses the emotional hit epitomised forever by Judy Garland's Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
What: The Wizard of Oz, Royal New Zealand Ballet
Where & when: Aotea Centre, until June 5 (all shows now sold out)