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Oil Region Ballet Sets Fifth Anniversary Production of ‘The Frog Prince’

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 @ 09:02 AM

Posted by Joanne Bauer

Photo 2FRANKLIN, Pa. – Oil Region Ballet (ORB) will mark its fifth anniversary in 2014, and the company will return to the stage next month with its production of “The Frog Prince.”

ORB’s opening night presentation of “The Frog Prince” will be at 7:30 pm Friday, March 7, at Barrow-Civic Theatre in Franklin, with encore performances to follow at 2 pm and 7:30 pm Saturday, March 8.

The company’s talented young performers from Venango, Clarion, Crawford, Mercer and neighboring counties also will stage two performances at The Academy Theatre in Meadville. These shows are set for 2 pm Saturday, March 22, and 2 pm Sunday March 23.

A “meet the characters” event that will appeal especially to children is set for 1:30 to 1:45 pm immediately before the Saturday matinees at both the Barrow-Civic and Academy theatres. An added feature before both Meadville shows will be a Dixieland band performance featuring The Jeff Gibbens Combo of Fairview-based Lake Erie Entertainment.

Returning to the 24-member ORB for its fifth season in 2014 are dancers Erin Edwards, Madison Henry, Morgan Jacoby, Audrianna Montgomery, Erica Perry, Abbey Shull, Victoria Stachelrodt and Hannah Young (all of Franklin), Rachel Leech (Meadville), Shannon Wolff (Cochranton), Caroline Coulter and Lily Dunn (Grove City), and Trevor Runco (Punxsutawney).

Newcomers for the 2013-2014 season are Taylor Kendzior and Jessica Stachelrodt (both of Franklin), Kayla McCandless and Taylor Thomas (Oil City), Alayna Rose Earp (Cranberry), Justice Gray (Meadville), Skylar Morrell (Cochranton), Rachel Howard (Clarion), and Damien Martinez (Pittsburgh), an accomplished Cuban dancer who portrays the title character in the upcoming production.

In addition to ORB corps de ballet members, the talented Rick Loeffert (Franklin) returns with a special appearance in The Frog Prince.

Martinez trained and performed in his Caribbean homeland, including a year with the National Ballet of Cuba, and has spent the past four years in Pittsburgh, where he has been a full-time dance instructor. He also has performed with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Jessica Stachelrodt of Franklin is cast in the other lead role of Tirena in “The Frog Prince.” She is a graduate of Mercyhurst University in Erie, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in dance, and has distinguished herself throughout the region as a dance performer, choreographer and teacher.

In ORB’s production of “The Frog Prince,” which is based on the timeless Brothers Grimm fairy tale, a young girl named Tirena and her friend Hattie (Madison Henry) grow up on the streets of New Orleans, where they share laughs, secrets and dreams. Tirena, grounded in the realities of life, dreams to one day own her own fine dining establishment. Hattie, on the other hand, her head in the clouds, pines for a prince to whisk her away to true love and a happily-ever-after ending.

Hattie’s dream starts becoming reality when a prince (Damien Martinez) actually comes to the Big Easy. Hattie begs her wealthy widower father (Rick Loeffert) to host a Mardi Gras gala and invite the prince to attend. Everything is taking shape nicely until evil Dr. Voodoo (Morgan Jacoby) intervenes with sinister intentions, enticing the prince into her “magic” box. Dr. Voodoo waves her wand, casts a spell, and turns the prince into a frog!

The Frog Prince remembers a tale of a kiss from a princess turning a frog into a prince again, so he sneaks into the Mardi Gras gala and spies Tirena in a beautiful dress (which she donned after an unfortunate mishap with the contents of a punch bowl). The Frog Prince steals a kiss, but because Tirena is not a real princess, she turns into a frog too!

Both the Frog Prince and Tirena flee for the cover of the nearby bayou, where an accommodating alligator named Alli (Taylor Kendzior) tells them of a friendly Voodoo priestess who may have the knowledge and power to get them out of their soggy predicament. And so begins a journey through the bayou, with the Voodoo priestess assigning the two frogs a cooking lesson that eventually brings them to the realization that they are in love.

The Frog Prince and Tirena return to the Mardi Gras gala, where they defeat Dr. Voodoo and her minions, and put an end to her evil scheme that turned them into frogs. They become prince and princess again, they marry, and cast a spell of their own – true love – over one another. Hattie marries too, not the Prince she had hoped for but the Prince’s handsome valet, with whom she has fallen deeply in love!

The breathtaking costumes for The Frog Prince are the handicraft by the company’s costume chairman Tina Borger and ORB executive director/artistic director Deborah Femovich. Contrary to perceptions that such stunning attire must be acquired from a costume rental agency, Borger and Femovich in fact created the entire set of costumes for “The Frog Prince” from scratch. Borger also is the owner of T.L. Borger Handsewn Creations, Costumes, and Custom Clothing in Franklin, PA (TLBorgerDesign@yahoo.com). ORB has also recruited new seamstress, Sherry Bastecki of Franklin, to help this year.

Their hundreds of hours of designing, measuring, acquiring materials, sewing, fitting and other tasks over several months have produced “truly remarkable costuming that brings ‘The Frog Prince’ to life,” says Jill Shull, ORB’s assistant executive director/marketing director. “The creativity and other costume development skills that Deborah and Tina have invested in ‘The Frog Prince’ is quite literally a work of art in its own right.”

Joyce Dittman is stage manager for the upcoming production, and Ed Ramage and Chris Shull designed and built the sets featuring the city of New Orleans, the Mardi gras gala and the Louisiana bayou. Lighting engineer Gary Dittman creates the surreal visual effects that will mesmerize audiences and allow them to believe in the world of The Frog Prince.

Tickets for the ORB production of “The Frog Prince” are available in advance at the Barrow-Civic and Academy theatre box offices. Tickets for all performances also will be sold at the door.

The ORB production of “The Frog Prince” follows its presentations of “Alice in Wonderland” in 2010, “Bremen Town Musicians” and “Le Train Bleu” in 2011, “Cinderella” in 2012, and “The Little Mermaid” in 2013.

Photo 1

Principal dancer, Jessica Stachelrodt of Franklin, rehearses her lead role as “Tirena”.

Photo 2

Returning ORB dancers Trevor Runco (Punxatawney) and Rachel Leech (Meadville) dance a pas de deux in The Frog Prince.

ORB company dancers (left to right) Madison Henry, Morgan Jacoby, Abbey Shull, and Victoria Stachelrodt (all of Franklin) and Rachel Leech (Meadville) display “attitude” while rehearsing their performance as “Flock of Flamingos” in Act 2.

ORB company dancers (left to right) Madison Henry, Morgan Jacoby, Abbey Shull, and Victoria Stachelrodt (all of Franklin) and Rachel Leech (Meadville) display “attitude” while rehearsing their performance as “Flock of Flamingos” in Act 2.

ORB dancers cast as “Flock of Egrets” in The Frog Prince : Taylor Thomas (Oil City) Row 1 (center), Row 2 (left to right) Alayna Earp (Cranberry) and Kayla McCandlesss (Oil City) , Row 3 (left to right) Erica Perry (Franklin) and Hannah Young (Franklin).

ORB dancers cast as “Flock of Egrets” in The Frog Prince : Taylor Thomas (Oil City) Row 1 (center), Row 2 (left to right) Alayna Earp (Cranberry) and Kayla McCandlesss (Oil City) , Row 3 (left to right) Erica Perry (Franklin) and Hannah Young (Franklin).

PHOTO CAPTION #5: Jessica Stachelrodt (Franklin) rehearses the transformation of her character “Tirena” into a frog while Hannah Young (Franklin) portraying “Kush-Kush Crawfish” looks on.

Jessica Stachelrodt (Franklin) rehearses the transformation of her character “Tirena” into a frog while Hannah Young (Franklin) portraying “Kush-Kush Crawfish” looks on.

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