It’s no secret to parents – little girls love “Fancy Nancy,” the 2005 book about an adorable perfectionist that spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and spawned a 50-book series selling 24 million volumes worldwide. It’s also no secret that little girls love ballet. So the combination of live ballet and another adorable character by “Nancy” illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser should be a winner.
That winner would be “Tea for Ruby,” the storybook ballet by Evergreen City Ballet. The Renton-based company has found big success in combining picture books with live ballet, and this weekend they’re bringing “Ruby” for the first time to Tacoma in performances at Theatre on the Square, with Glasser herself signing books.
For all the non-little-girl-parents out there, this is a big deal. Glasser was named 2013 Illustrator of the Year by the Children’s Book Council, and her flowery, tendrilly illustrations of pastel-pink outfits and delightful visions have exploded into a highly-profitable line of “Fancy Nancy” merchandise, with iPad apps, a musical and a film. It also helped Glasser get the gig for “Tea for Ruby,” when author Sarah Ferguson (the Duchess of York) got chatting with her before an awards ceremony where “Nancy” had been nominated.
And “Fancy Nancy” has also been a big deal for Evergreen City Ballet. After a stage version of “Nancy” they also choreographed “Tea for Ruby” in Bellevue last year, to great success, and are working on the rights for a new “Nancy” ballet. At a very kid-friendly one-hour length, broken up into short scenes that follow the well-meaning but rather loud Ruby through her preparation in manners for visiting the Queen, the ballet has been popular enough for Evergreen to take it on the road.
“Kids love it,” says director Kevin Kaiser.
Inspired by the picture-book-ballet success, Kaiser also began the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy at Evergreen, a pre-ballet movement class for 3-6-year-olds inspired by the ballerina mouse in the books of that name.
“It’s a match made in heaven,” Kaiser says. “It’s a great way for little kids to get introduced to ballet.”
It also helps that Glasser, a former ballerina herself, knows exactly how to appeal to the audience, dressing for book signings in a pink feather boa with all the “Nancy” drama you could wish for.
Is Glasser more Ruby or Nancy herself?
“I brought parts of myself to both of those characters,” she says, explaining that Nancy was also based on her niece. “I’m a bit of a drama queen like Nancy, and I’m also a poser! Her curiosity and need to be goo at whatever she tries to do – I have that in common with her. But there’s a lot of of Ruby in me – I’m rambunctious, doing things before I think it through.”
“Tea for Ruby” will be performed at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. April 5 and 6, with book signings by illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser and dancer appearances afterwards. $27 adults/$16 children and students. Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org, evergreencityballet.org