"Children's stories in the 1800s were less politically correct and palatable for children today. I just went with my gut," he said of his decisions about which adventures to include.
"Pinocchio" is the first ballet score Mack has written. He lives in Albany, N.Y., now, but lived in Charleston last year while his wife, a South Charleston native, completed a medical rotation with CAMC.
He contacted Pauley to ask for her advice and suggestions on revisions to his first version of the score, which prompted her offer to choreograph and stage it for its premiere.
The production's scenes -- danced by diverse characters such as marionettes, a fire-eater, a fox, cat and woodpecker, donkeys, children, a cricket and, of course, Pinocchio and Gepetto -- present choreography and costuming challenges.
Pauley delved deeply into her special effects bag of tricks to create Pinocchio's famously growing nose. She won't divulge its secret.
She's also introducing a new backdrop system to this production. Instead of raising and lowering traditional backdrops, her crew will use a large venue projector to change the scenes that appear on a single white screen.
Mack watched part of a rehearsal when he was in Charleston last month. Although the dancers were not in costume, he could easily discern the parts they were dancing.
"I was just blown away by the creativity and great dancing," he said. "The cricket fluttered en pointe, and I could immediately see that she was the cricket. When I see it with the costumes, it will be fantastic."
The score was written for a full orchestra, but the premiere will be danced to a recording Mack made with a virtual orchestra using high-end software. The sound, he says, is nearly indistinguishable from a live orchestra.
A concert pianist with masters and doctorate degrees in piano from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Mack composed his first piece, a musical, when he was 13 years old. Since then, he's composed symphonic, contemporary, choral and popular music.
"I am thrilled. I can't even express how exciting this is," he said. "Going from page to stage is a harrowing journey. It takes someone like Kim Pauley to make it happen. She's one of the gems that Charleston really needs to hold on to."
The part of Pinocchio will be danced by Brigette Madden. Guest artist Ian Casady, principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, will create the role of the Fox. Rhiannon Turley will dance the Blue Fairy. Paul Shannon will play Geppetto and Nadia Bastron is the cricket.
After the performance of "Pinocchio," Casady and Turley will perform the pas de duex from "Sleeping Beauty." "Dusk to Dawn," a contemporary work set to Celtic music, completes the program.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.