Wednesday, June 27, 2018

ABT's Don Quixotes Chart a Path for ABT's Future

Boylston/Simkin, Abrera/Royal, Forster/Agoudine
Handwringing over ABT's weak principal roster has come to an all-time high this season. In short: Daniil Simkin will be dividing his time between ABT and Berlin next year, Jeffrey Cirio is leaving to English National Ballet, David Hallberg after years of injuries needs a reduced workload, Roberto Bolle is aging and dancing only once or twice a season, which leads us with three full-time male principals: James Whiteside, Herman Cornejo (who also has suffered many injuries) and Cory Stearns.

Yet this week's run of Don Quixote's chart a path for ABT to become a successful company in the future. I saw three performances and at every single one there was raw new talent that made you sit up and mark down names.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Theater Diaries: Mean Girls The Musical That's a Great Play, and Boys in the Band

Cady meets the Plastics, photo @ Joan Marcus
I saw two great plays on Broadway this week. They were funny, witty, insightful, with lines that had that sharp ring of truth that only great wordsmiths can create. Except one was technically a musical.

Mean Girls is a musical adaptation of the 2004 movie. Tina Fey (30 Rock, SNL) wrote the screenplay and adapted the screenplay into a book musical. If I were to judge Mean Girls strictly as a play, it's one of the best plays I've ever seen. Yes much of the book is recycled from the movie, but Fey has updated and tweaked the screenplay into a great stage play. Predictably social media is now a big part of Mean Girls, as are some ad-libbed lines that reflect current popular culture. There is one about J.R. Smith "stepping it up for Lebron" that had the audiences rolling. But the emotional truth of Fey's writing is what makes Mean Girls worth watching. Fey understands adolescence, and understands the terrors that are a part of any high school experience. It's that core of empathy that makes Mean Girls among the best musicals about adolescence. It's certainly better than Grease.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Hamilton: The Great American Musical

Michael Luwoye as Hamilton
June 8, 2018 is the day that I will always remember as the day I became a "rich person." Not because I make a lot of money, but I became one of those people who saw Hamilton on Broadway. And short of actual income bracket, I'll take this bump up of my social standing.

So ... how was it? Was it worth the three year wait? (Seriously, it took me 2 years just to get that Ticketmaster pre-sale code that allowed me to buy tickets). The long and the short of it is that Hamilton is a very, very entertaining, well-crafted musical. Lin Manuel Miranda mixes contemporary hip-hop with R&B, jazz, and classical musical theater styles and crafted a musical that is intelligent, funny, and thought-provoking.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ratmansky's Harlequinade: Petipa in the House

Boylston and Whiteside, photo @ Alan Alejandro
Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of Marius Petipa's Harlequinade had its premiere in the fourth week of ABT's spring season. For dance historians this was the event of the spring season. After all, although there have been occasional revivals of Harlequinade this is one Petipa ballet that is mostly relegated to excerpts at a gala. Perhaps the most complete version was Balanchine's adaptation that he set on NYCB in 1965. There is a grainy video of the complete Balanchine here. So as the lights went down I wondered, so what does Petipa's version look like?

Act One scene design, photo @ Rosalie O'Connor
The short answer is: hard. Cruel. Commedia dell'arte where humor is conveyed by slapstick (literally -- Harlequin's magical weapon is a hard stick), and a man being thrown down a balcony, "dying," and his body parts thrown around the stage is supposed to be funny. Harlequin wins his bride by beating up all his opponents and then finally paying off his bride's intractable father. It's no wonder this ballet didn't really take after Petipa was gone -- there's no Lilac Fairy beckoning forgiveness, no divertissements like Dawn and Prayer as there are in CoppĂ©lia that hint at a brighter future.  There is a Good Fairy but she only gives Harlequin power in the form of a stick and money. In the world of commedia dell'arte, might (and $$$) makes right. There is something quite fascinating about seeing this Harlequinade compared to Balanchine's version. You can see where Mr. B made the story more palatable to modern audiences, and to see the actual thing is eye-opening.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

SAB Workshop Ushers in New Stars while NYCB Ends Season

View from the 4th Ring for Concerto Barocco
Sunday June 3 was a bittersweet event for NYCB fans as three senior members of the company gave Long-time soloist Savannah Lowery and senior corps members Cameron Dieck and Likolani Brown all retired today. It's a happy occasion: all three dancers are headed towards
second careers but for dance audiences when senior members of the company leave it's always a loss.
Lowery as a farewell present was given two assignments -- the second violin to Ashley Laracey's first violin in Concerto Barocco, and the Agon pas de trois. I will miss Brown, who often led the Flowers in Nutcracker. You could always pick her out of a crowd with her dark hair and sweet face. I will also miss Dieck, who was one of my favorite Bottoms. Dieck's final turn onstage was as Theme 3 in Four Temperaments. He was dancing with his off-stage girlfriend Unity Phelan and the orchestra actually slowed down the tempo considerably, probably to allow Dieck to savor his last moments as a dancer. The crowd cheered loudly for Lowery during curtain calls. I wish she had been allowed a solo bow but oh well.

Balanchine's Nutcracker pops up ... everywhere

It's December 2020 and the world is going through a furious, deadly second wave of the covid pandemic. Most performances have been cance...