A great performance has an air of inevitability as well as a feel of spontaneity.
It looks like an improvisation, as if invented on the spot.
NYCB carries off this impersonation of spontaniety so well that I often sit through a performance feeling as if it were created there and then just for me.
I am aware that this is a fond delusion on my part. Warren Carlyle plumbed the choreography of the Broadway work of Jerome Robbins to put together the spontaneous combustion that is Something to Dance About, for instance. The cast rehearsed this brilliant compilation, as it did Justin Peck’s tribute to Robbins, the deceptively-titled Easy.
Even pieces I have seen many times, like the great Four Seasons which Robbins set to Verdi grant me the perception of a sneak peak into a newly minted work. Roman Mejia, a young (and apparently much noticed) member of the corps, was a startling revelation to me as the Puckish faun in the fall section of this ballet.
The pas de deux often also looks like invented in the spur of the moment as the show-off pottion of the program. Each dancer jumps in –often literally– to the performance, and takes his or her turn impressing us.
It is unrivaled, really, to have a show run for so long that it has gone well past its first generation. Longevity, of course, is not the only thing to recommend the longest-running musical melodrama on Broadway.
The Phantom of the Opera, still going strong after 30 years on Broadway at The Majestic, has a new leading anti-hero, the young Broadway veteran Ben Crawford. He will be donning the mask originally worn by Michael Crawford when the show opened in January 1988. and more recently by Norm Lewis and James Barbour. Crawford was last seen on the stage as Mr. Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The 19th Raoul in the musical’s storied history on Broadway,Jay Armstrong Johnson will be joining the cast on April 30th. Johnson has appeared in the original Broadway casts of Hair (revival, in his Broadway debut), and Catch Me If You Can to name a few of his many theater credits. Johnson has also appeared in movies and television, including his leading role in ABC TV’s Quantico.
Ben Crawford as the malevolent masked man and Jay Armstrong Johnson as the dashing Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, join current principal cast members Ali Ewoldt as Christine, (with Kaley Ann Voorhees taking on the role at certain performances,) Laird Mackintosh as Monsieur André, Craig Bennett as Monsieur Firmin, Raquel Suarez Groen as Carlotta, Carlton Moe as Piangi,Maree Johnson as Madame Giry and Kara Klein as Meg Giry.
To learn more about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic Phantom, and for tickets to the Broadway production (with links to its worldwide reach), please visit The Phantom‘s website.
via Daily Prompt: Disrupt List making is a habit. I have had a very hard time breaking myself of a disposition to compile and aggregate. There are times when the combinations on any given catalog serves to disrupt the order of things. Relationships can be tangential and serendipitous rather than strictly straightforward. This enumeration, for […]
Add to this some other films and plays like The Big Meal, Dinner for Shmucks or The Dinner Party (on Broadway in 2000 with Henry Winkler and the late Jan Maxwell and John Ritter et al) or the short-lived Festen, (also on Broadway and also at the Music Box) with Ali McGraw. The latter as I recall was a dark (both in lighting and atmosphere) play which, again, as I recall, was extremely interesting; it lasted just 49 performances.
Learning from our mistakes seems to be humanly impossible.
Lindsey Ferrentino’s well-wrought This Flat Earth, on the mainstage at Playwrights Horizons through April 29th, looks at the aftermath of one of our greatest failures. We repeatedly, almost routinely, fail to protect our children from gun violence.
In the wake of Parkland, FL, This Flat Earth seems a mild, even tame response.
It is very timely without being what is called these days “an issue play.” This Flat Earthaddresses the issue in its very humane, personal and intimate way. It is unsentimental and unflinching, even as it brings tears welling.
In lieu of a curtain rising, a cello is tuned by cellist Christine H. Kim, whose playing will punctuate the transitions in This Flat Earth. The Sound Design by Mikhail Fiksel under the Music Director, Christian Frederickson is integral to the production.
The cello has significance for Julie (Ella Kennedy Davis). Her and her dad Dan’s (Lucas Papaelias) upstairs neighbor, Cloris (Lynda Gravátt) was a cellist. Her music keeps Julie up, or it used to, before. Now she is spooked by all the ordinary sounds outside her window. Noone seems to know how to help her, or her friend Zander (Ian Saint-Germain) deal with the shooting at their school. Julie, sheltered by her dad, is shocked to hear that this sort of thing has happened to other kids. Julie is tactless as only a 13 year old in distress can be in her encounter with one of the grieving mothers, Lisa (Cassie Beck).
Lynda Gravátt’s Cloris puts everything into a perspective that suggests that Julie and everyone around her will move on. It is a coda to a disquieting story.
The first-rate ensemble in This Flat Earth is beautifully choreographed by director Rebecca Taichman. Ella Kennedy Davis gives a remarkable starring performance; the youngsters, Kennedy Davis and Ian Saint-Germain, are impressively natural. Kennedy Davis gets wonderful support from everyone on stage.
Dance evolves with the times as do all things, artistic or run-of-the-mill. It is what we need to keep in perspective as we watch young choreographers take on the creation of the next new ballet. They will be influenced by what has been termed modern dance, a genre dating back to Isadora Duncan’s day and represented prominently today by, among others, Paul Taylor (and his) American Modern Dance.
Modern dance is meant to be less formal, to eschew the stodgy. Not that Jerome Robbins, or George Balanchine, for that matter, can be thought of as stodgy. The ballets that are stepping, best foot forward, these days, tend to –not exactly relax, since many are as frenetic as they are innovative– be freer in mixing the metaphors of dance forms.
Lauren Lovett and Peter Walker, two of the more recently minted NYCB dance-makers, have emerged as rising stars of ballet. Lovett tends towards a romantic view of the classical. Walker is a bit of a renegade, although his second work, the 2018 dance odyssey, moves to a more traditional line.
The older guard is equally willng to mix things up. At 40, and after many years dancing as a principal with New York City Ballet, and working with his own troupe and as head of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied is an elder statesman in the world of choreography. Millepied, whose Neverwhere was a lovely revelation at a recent NYCB performance, is a case in point. His work uses classical style married to contemporary scores–Neverwhere is set to music by Nico Muhly– and refreshing ideas about movement. Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence at the American Ballet Theatre since 2008, has given NYCB some delightful novelties, as well. His Odessa and Songs of Bukovina are works that join diverse styles of folk and ballet in beautiful complexity.
This was true in 2016, when I first posted it, and it proves once again that Chekhov provides a model for new plays and spurs a playwright to use The Cherry Orchard as a starting point for startling new work:
Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.
Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17-25, 2016. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.”
This March, The Cherry Orchard is the influence for Breitwisch Farm, a play by Jeremy J. Kamps at the Esperance Theater Company at the new Tribeca venue, Town Stages. Breitwisch Farm explores issues of displacement and immigration in the era of America First, giving Chekhov’s story a distinctly of the moment twist. The play runs from March 2nd through March 16th.
Breitwisch Farm author Jeremy J. Kamps is part of the Public’s Emerging Writers Group. The play stars Danaya Esperanza, Joe Tapper, Katie Hartke, Will Manning, Charlie Murphy, Maria Peyramaure, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Katie Wieland, under Ryan Quinn‘s direction.
Jerome Robbins was a man who knew how to put on a show. His ballets has as much pomp and circumstance, flair and flavor as any of his Broadway show.
At 30-40 minutes, they constitute something like a one-act on every program on which they are featured. Like many another dance-maker, Robbins covered a range of styles and subjects. There’sNY Export: Opus Jazz, the West Side Story Suite, and I’m Old Fashioned with their modern and pop culture motifs.
The Four Seasons, set to ballet interludes by Verdi from a number of his operas, is an exhilirating and very classical entertainment. In it he creates not just a mise en scène that takes us from winter through spring to summer and fall but also hearkens to Shakespeare. A Puck-like figure (puckishly danced by Preston Chamblee at the performance we attended) gambols through the final chapter of the ballet.
The Four Seasons with its processions representing the times and temperatures that progress through the year is at once majestic and light-hearted. Robbins, a much lauded stage choreographer contributed greatly to the NYCB repertoire in his long association with the company. He joined George Balanchine as Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet in 1949.