As most of you know, the Charleston Ballet Theater is getting ready to present The Great Gatsby June 4 and 5 at 7 p.m., but there have been some complications. Stephanie Bussell, the famed female lead in CBT’s Twisted Tango last year, suffered an injury that has forced her off the Piccolo stage this season (though look for her return in September).

Bussell was cast in roles in all the Piccolo shows and the company has had to rework every number to fill those roles. Kyle Barnette, CBT’s Artistic Director has said one of the “most dramatic and physically demanding roles” filled by principal dancer, Melody Staples, will be Myrtle in Thursday’s Gatsby, “not only for its technical difficulty but also for its maturity and dramatic acting aspects.”

“Melody, who played the lead in Cinderella this past spring, fit the bill perfectly, is a truly dedicated artist and graciously has taken on the challenge.” After watching Staples this season, I can attest to her beautiful ballet form and magnetic energy onstage.

Speaking of Staples, she and her husband Stephen Hammell, another CBT company member, apparently have a loyal and dedicated family fan base. Hammel’s mother travels at least twice a year to Charleston CBT performances — sometimes driving all the way from Winnepeg, Manitoba Canada (nearly 1500 miles!).

As for last weekend’s CBT performances, Lullaby of Broadway sold out Friday night, in part due to the alluring piano music of Ms. Brenda LeFevre which actually drew people from King Street into the CBT theater for a cocktail at the piano-filled bar. Many were convinced to stay for not only the Lullaby of Broadway at 7 p.m., but for a second round of ballet at 9 p.m. with The Magical Mystery Tour. Clearly marketing themselves as a piano bar before the show was a wise marketing move!

Saturday afternoon’s Off to Oz performances by the dance students of the CBT’s Broadway Dance Project were big hits with the audience. Choreographed and produced by CBT’s very own Ballet Master, Stephen Gabriel, Barnette says Off to Oz is not a recital, but a full on production by highly trained dance students who present one hour and 20 minutes of dance to songs from The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz and even The Monkees.

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