Posted in dance, fairytale, modern American dance, modern dance

Wit and whimsy

Profiles
Profiles

“Fairytales can come true,” as the song “Young At Heart” says. They also often have a grain of truth in them. For instance, Snow White is about vanity and the dislocations it creates.

In Paul Taylor’s hands, Snow White is a witty, whimsical and untidy tale.

The Wicked Stepmother (Sean Mahoney, who also plays the Prince) is put off by the answer her mirror mutters– it is not she but Snow White (Parisa Khobdeh) who is the fairest in the land. She sets about dispensing with her rival. The self-polishing poison apple (A Bad Apple, in Mr. Taylor’s cast list, and played by Heather McGinley) is clad all in red by costume designer Cynthia O’Neal, who has given Snow White the familiar dress of a Disney creation.

Snow-White_header1-300x168This Taylor creation was first danced in 1983, and features music specially composed by Donald York, the PTDC music director who is conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Sets are by David Gropman and lighting is by Jennifer Tipton. George Smallwood, James Samson, Michael Appuzzo, Robert Kleindorst, and Francisco Graciano are the active, sometime vengeful dwarfs out of central casting.

Along with Snow White on the program was also Profiles, a 1979 dance, which has a
sculptural quality. The music for this piece is also specially composed for it–this for a violin, cello and viola quartet by Ian Radzynski. The movement, like the costuming (by Gene Moore) bears resemblance to cut-out figures. Michael Trusanovec, Laura Halzack, Michelle Fleet, and Michael Novak performed.

Larry Keigwin’s Rush Hour reprised on the bill, with original music by Adam Crystal. The piece is inspired by the images of sculptor George Segal, and has some of the herky-jerky feel of the long trip home after a hard day’s work.

The 1982 Taylor dance, Mercuric Tidings is set to excerpts from Franz Schubert’s symphonies. The piece has a lovely and somewhat languid soul. It also requires a large cast, including Jamie Rae Walker, Madelyn Ho, Christina Lynch Markham, joining many of those seen earlier in the day.

For more information on the PTDC New York season, which continues through April 3rd, please visit the David H. Koch Theater website.

Posted in aging, Beauty and the Beast, Chekhov, fairytale, improv, laughter and tears

Theater is about engagement, tears and laughter, and make believe

Fairytales make for good theater, because through them we envision a world different from the daily grind.
There is magic and mystery.

by Sheila Burnett: “Beauty and the Beast” at Abrons Arts Center

“Beauty and the Beast” is a compelling story in which the beast is misunderstood and opposites attract.
In the new production at the Abrons Arts Center, starting March 13th,  the Beast is played by Mat Fraser, a well-known disabled actor and performance artist in his native England; Julie Atlas Muz, choreographer, former Miss Coney Island and burlesque artist, is his Beauty. This moving “Beauty and the Beast” is definitely for mature audiences only.

Jim Himelsbach (live) Paul Zimet (projected)
In Mallory Catlett’s “This Was The End.”
Photo by 
Keith Skretch

Phelm McDermott, founding member of Improbable theater company, directs the live-action, improvisational and puppet pageant. Hear what the director and actors say about the development of “Beauty and the Beast”in this video.

To learn more about “Beauty and the Beast,” please visit www.abronsartscenter.org

Memory not fairytales drives Mallory Catlett’s “This Was The End,” at the Chocolate Factory from February 21s to March 8th. In Chekhov’s play the eponymous Uncle Vanya asks, “What if I live to be 60?” In Catlett’s play, a veteran cast of four, Black-Eyed Susan, Paul Zimet, Jim Himelsbach and Rae C. Wright explore the answer by looking at the manifestations of aging, from memory loss and sleep deprivation to the tolls it takes on the physical being.

Black Eyed Susan in Mallory Catlett’s “This Was The End” at the Chocolate Factory through March 8th. Photo by Keith Skretch

To find out more about “This Was The End,” and get a small sampling of the show see this and visit http://www.chocolatefactorytheater.org/

Emily Schwend’s “Take Me Back,” at Walkerspace in a Kindling Theatre Company production from February 28th through March 22nd, looks at the American dream through the eyes of a parolee back from a four-year Federal stint. To Bill, living with his diabetic mother, the dream is more like a nightmare. Or perhaps a different kind of fairy tale.

To find out more about “Take Me Back,” please visit  them at their FB page and go here for tix.

Former Czech President, Vaclav Havel’s last work “The Pig, or Vaclav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,” witten by Havel and Vladimír Morávek, adapted into English by Edward Einhorn, presented at 3-Legged Dog in a Untitled Theater Company #61 production from March 6th through March 29th, combines food, drink, revelry, song and politics. 

Before the show, Cabaret Metropol, a New York-based ensemble specializing in classic European cabaret music, performs. The production’s “after-party” features a tribute concert of music that inspired the Velvet Revolution, from the Velvet Underground and others, performed by the members of the dynamic cast. Dinner is provided by the Slovakian restaurant Korzo.

For more information about this production and 3-Legged Dog, visit http://www.3ldnyc.org/
Posted in ball, ballgowns, Cinderella, fairytale, gowns, Harriet Harris, Laura Osnes, Peter Bartlett, Santino Fontana, TV version with Julie Andrews, Victoria Clark, William Ivey Long

Waltzing With The Prince: "R+H’s Cinderella" On Bway!

Little girls dream of dressing in gowns and looking like a princess, and, as they get a little older, of charming princes who can whisk them off to a castle.

The fantasy in “Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” in an open run at the Broadway Theatre, is about transformation and aspiration.

Poor Cinderella (Laura Osnes) leads a terrible life, toiling at thankless tasks for her thankless stepmother, Madame (Harriet Harris) and ne’er-do-well stepsister Charlotte (Ann Harada) and the nicer Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle.) She dreams of escape, “In My Own Little Corner,” and goes back to work mending and cleaning.

Laura Osnes as Cinderella and female ensemble. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Douglas Carter Beane sees in  Cinderella both the hopes for betterment and the determination to make a better world in his script adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein original TV production. His take is perhaps just a little too up-to-the-minute. Or maybe, it contributes to making “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” so much more than a made for TV version of a timeless fairytale, even if that 1957 live broadcast featured Julie Andrews in the heyday of television. There is a shiny sort of do-good, feel-good quality to Beane’s rescripting, and to the lyrics he and David Chase have added to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original.

Santino Fontana as Prince Topher and Laura Osnes as Cinderella at the ball.  Photo by Carol  Rosegg.

Laura Osnes, whose ascent to Broadway was as the winner in a TV contest for her role in  “Grease,” has proven to be the quintessential stage actor. She is also more than a made for TV star. Since being “discovered,” she’s done yeomen’s work in the much-maligned “Bonnie and Clyde,” subbed seamlessly for Kelli O’Hare as Nellie Forbush in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” played Hope Harcourt in “Anything Goes.”  She’s performed at Carnegie Hall and in concerts at 54 Below. In short, Laura Osnes is a genuine Broadway actor.

Cinderella’s desires and dreams resonate as they always have. She’s just a little pluckier and gutsier than you might remember her. Her Prince Topher (Santino Fontana) is a little more evolved and sensitive, too.

Santino Fontana is delicious as Prince Topher. Ann Harada gets to sing one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most wonderful anthems, “The Stepsister’s Lament” with a touch of irony and innocence. Marla Mindelle as the stepsister who falls in love with a rabble-rousing poor boy, Jean-Michel (Greg Hildreth) is endearing, as is Greg Hildreth, in an endearing subplot. Victoria Clark makes a sweet Fairy Godmother, Marie although she looks a bit uncomfortable during her stint in the air.

What would Cinderella’s trip to the ball be without exquisite costumes? We don’t have to imagine anything so dire, since William Ivey Long gives us glamourous gowns worthy of a fairytale and happy endings. Anna Louizos’s sets are also gorgeous and imaginatively rendered. Paul Huntley’s headdresses are extravagant enough to make hair and wigs a character. Mark Brokaw ‘s direction keeps “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” moving at a lively pace.

“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” will make your wish for a captivating evening come true.
Sweet dreams. (Visit VP for more on “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”)

For more information about “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” please visit http://www.cinderellaonbroadway.com/

Posted in comedy, dance, fairytale, festival of short plays, fox, known playwrights, monologues, politically incorrect, racism, stand up, stepfather, teens, vignettes

Squeeze out a little more of the season with "Summer Shorts 5" but we’re done with Mark Morris for now

What brings an award-winning seventeen year old playwright (Ruby Rae Spiegel), a famously controversial one (Neil LaBute), a long-established and much respected theater writer (Christopher Durang) and an up-and-coming voice of off-Broadway (Alexander Dinelaris) to the same stage?

It’s “Summer Shorts,” a festival of plays defined by their brevity, now in its fifth year at 59E59 Theaters through September 3rd! The challenge of “Summer Shorts” is to create a complete play within a time constraint of approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Each “short” is expected to have a full arc, but they need not be strictly speaking, and most of the selection presented by the authors above in the Series A repertory is not, one-act offerings. Some are comprised of several scenes, that shift in location, and introduce their characters. Some are monologues.

Since it is not easy to present a beginning, middle and end in such a short form, some of the plays succeed better than others.

Lydia Weintraub (left) and Louise Sullivan in Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Carrie & Francine.” 

Each bill offers four little vignettes, and in “Summer Shorts 5– Series A” , the offerings included:

Neil LaBute’s “The New Testament” proves to be not just a very funny, well-paced work, it also tells its story cogently, under the direction of Dolores Rice, tantalizing out the details of its brilliantly simple plot. Jeff Binder, with foils in Mando Alvarado and James Chen, is particularly adept in this little tale of racism and self-righteousness.

“In This, Our Time…,” Alexander Dinelaris paints vivid portraits of a troubled modern
family. JJ Kandel directs the dynamic cast in a minimalist dramatic work that mystifies with an unsatisfactory ending.

Erin Darke and Ted Koch in a scene from In This, Our Time… by Alexander Dinelaris, directed By J.J. Kandel, part of SUMMER SHORTS 5 Series A.ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW AMERICAN SHORT PLAYS Photo Credit: Rahav Segev 

“Triple Trouble with Love” is Christopher Durang’s entertaining stand up comedy of a play about the perils of relationship. It features Nick Choksi, Beth Hoyt, and Aidan Sullivan in a triptych to dysfunction.

Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Carrie & Francine,” despite a complete plot line, manages to feel fragmental and, well, incomplete.
___________________________________________________________________________
No Mozart this time around from Mark Morris Dance Group at “Mostly Mozart Festival”

There was no Mozart in the Mostly Mozart Festival presentation by Mark Morris Dance Group at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre in the Time Warner Center from August 18th through 20th. The much-touted New York premiere of “Renard,” set to a score by Igor Stravinsky that was played by the skillful MMDG Musical Ensemble under the baton of Stefan Asbury, fell under the Sravinsky Too rubric, however.

(See a video of typical Morris dancing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeFyYFxTqtQ)

Also on the program was last year’s sensation– “Socrates,” a piece choreographed to music by Erik Satie– which is certainly dynamic, but the dance to celebrate on this program is “Festival Dances,” set to Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Piano Trio in E Major, Opus 83. “Festival Dances” is a beautiful and gentle work in the spirit of Agnes DeMille with plenty of balletic influence.

Both “Renard,” which is a comedic piece, and “Socrates” make fine use of vocal accompaniments. Renard is adorable, acrobatic, and reminiscent of silent films. The costumes by Maira Kalman with labels naming each of the characters beginning on the front of their shirts and ending on the back and little headpieces of crowns or ears are imaginative and simple. The Cock’s Chics are dressed like 1960’s cheerleaders in crinolined skirts so when Cock breaks out into a little endzone dance it just feels right. The stylized violence also seems appropriate for the story.

Visit markmorrisdancegroup.org to find a schedule for future MMDG performances.

To find a schedule for Summer Shorts5, go to 59E59.org