New York City Ballet: Double Feature
-Onstage with the Dancers
New York City Ballet
(NYC Ballet Website)
Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 19, 2005
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Conductor: Andrea Quinn
Double Feature (2004)
The Blue Necklace: Music by Irving Berlin, Choreography by Susan Stroman, Libretto by Susan Stroman and Glen Kelly, Music Arrangements by Glen Kelly, Orchestrations by Doug Besterman, Scenery by Robin Wagner, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski as Dorothy Brooks, Jason Fowler as Mr. Griffith, Kyra Nichols as Mrs. Griffiths, Ashley Bouder as Mabel, Megan Fairchild as Florence, Damian Woetzel as Billy Randolph, Tara Sorine as Young Mabel, Isabella Tobias as Young Florence, and the Company.
Irving Berlin Songs: Alexander's Ragtime Band, Always, What'll I do?, How About Me?, Slumming on Park Avenue, Let Yourself Go, Everybody's Doin' It Now, All Alone, The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, Mandy, Steppin' Out With My Baby, You're Easy To Dance With, No Strings, How Deep Is The Ocean?.
On this year's viewing of Susan Stroman's two-part masterpiece, with its split timing, double-takes, pantomime dance, and filmed narration, as well as some filmed backdrops to enhance the unusual sets (such as the Griffiths' Originally deteriorating neighborhood in The Blue Necklace, with newly covered walls, after the inheritance attached to "lost baby Mabel" is squandered) this work is ripening into a longed-for seasonal event, much like Swan Lake, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, in other companies' repertoires. Even though there is over-acted pathos in ballet choreography (to resemble over-acted pathos in silent films), it works beautifully, and the young Mabel and young Florence, now expertly danced by Tara Sorine and Isabella Tobias, respectively, were always in character, always on time.
Kyra Nichols, as Mrs. Griffith, her original role, exudes just the correct amount of evil and self-serving insensitivity, which washes away in the final scene, when she allows the grown Mabel, the effervescent Ashley Bouder, to keep her own blue necklace, on the reunion with her loving and lonely birth mother, Maria Kowroski as a splendid Dorothy Brooks. Ms. Nichols was well suited to this mostly dramatic, lyrical dance performance, and she has obviously internalized the requisite emotions as the action unfolds.
Jason Fowler, as her husband, in a repeat but brief role, as well, displayed mixed feelings and true fatherly love, and his stage presence seems to grow each season. Ms. Kowroski was an elegant Dorothy Brooks, and her soft makeup, curled hair, and white, glittery dresses seemed to match those of Ashley Bouder, the grown Mabel, her birth daughter. Ms. Kowroski's solos on leaving the baby on the steps of a church and at a celebration party, "years later", were stylistically indicative of the fame of the renowned ballerina in this narrative. Ms. Bouder, as well, with her usual, high energy, was adorable as she kept going into and out of a once locked door to show the audience all would soon be well.
Ms. Bouder's pas de deux with Damian Woetzel, the dashing Billy Randolph, was exuberant, exciting, and engaging. Mr. Woetzel was immediately smitten with the new dancer at the party, and one can only fantasize another happy ending to this eventually happy story. Megan Fairchild, a new principal, as is Ms. Bouder, has polished her "ditzy" role as the dance pretender (a smaller, thinner, more feminine dance of Cinderella's sisters' trying on the tiny slipper). She wore, at her mother's hand, Mabel's blue necklace, in order to inherit Dorothy Brooks' fortune, as the pretend birth daughter, dancing a pretend performance with the superb dancer, Billy Randolph. Ms. Fairchild was quite humorous in her dance antics, a sensational sprite with serious skill.
Makin' Whoopee: Music by Walter Donaldson, Choreography by Susan Stroman, Libretto by Susan Stroman and Glen Kelly, Based on the play Seven Chances by Roi Cooper Megrue, Music Arrangements by Glen Kelly, Orchestrations by Doug Besterman and Danny Troob, Scenery by Robin Wagner, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Tom Gold as Jimmie Shannon, Alexandra Ansanelli as Anne Windsor, Albert Evans as Joe Doherty, Seth Orza as Edward Meekan, Arch Higgins as Garrison, Students from School of American Ballet, and the Company, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson).
Walter Donaldson Songs: Makin' Whoopee!, My Baby Just Cares For Me, Borneo, Reaching For Someone, My Buddy, My Blue Heaven, The Daughter Of Rosie O'Grady, He's The Last Word, You, Romance, Love Me Or Leave Me, Yes Sir! That's My Baby, Carolina In the Morning.
The cute narrative of Makin' Whoopee, also related to windfall fortunes, drove this ballet with essentially the same cast as last year's premiere, to another happy ending, yet I still cannot understand how a firm must have $7 million by dusk, then get exactly that amount through an instant inheritance from one of the member's (Jimmie Shannon's) rich uncles (because, indeed, he marries by 7 PM on his 27th birthday, that same day), and then the narrative says the couple lives "wealthily ever after". Did he somehow bilk the firm's creditors once again, or was Jimmie Shannon happy from a jail cell, shared with his cronies? But, these narrative details are too serious for such a scintillating, fantasy work, and, once again, Susan Stroman has achieved her own deserved fame for this charming second story of a two-story ballet.
Tom Gold, as Jimmie Shannon, deserves a unique award for being onstage for almost the entire ballet, in hyper-kinetic choreography, that few dancers could pull off, as he leaps across the stage in rapid, silent film fashion. In fact, he is so aerobically charged, that I wondered how he would muster the energy for the final, madcap race. But, he did, and with aplomb and astounding action. There should be a Jimmie Shannon doll, on Energizer batteries. Alexandra Ansanelli, as Anne Windsor, his bride-to-be, was appropriately demure, calculating, and wispy, as each season passed at her doorstep, with her refusal to wed, until Jimmie's impending inheritance was published. Albert Evans, Seth Orza, and Arch Higgins, as Jimmie's criminal cronies, in traditional attire, hats, and campy hide-and-seek, have also become seasoned actor/dancers.
The remaining cast, as potential brides, as an angry husband (the very versatile and muscular Ask la Cour), as a mother in the park, as a preacher, and especially as would be brides in bridal dresses and bridal drag, carried this narrative to its full, hysterically entertaining potential. Soloist, Ask la Cour, as a would be bride with breasts, along with male corps dancers, raced with outstretched arms, silent film style, to trick Jimmie into marrying them at the moment his incredible inheritance kicks in. The female corps and students from School of American Ballet added to the creative campiness of this entire event. Kudos to the animal trainer, William Berloni, and his Boston terrier, who appeared several times as Anne Windsor's perky pet and who exuded equal energy to Tom Gold's electrified antics.
Kudos to Andrea Quinn, for conducting a two-part score of monumental and memorable songs, such as How Deep is the Ocean and My Blue Heaven. Kudos to Susan Stroman, Irving Berlin, Walter Donaldson, Glen Kelly, and Robin Wagner and William Ivey Long (for remarkable sets and costumes). I already look forward to seeing this two-part masterpiece again next season.
Ashley Bouder and Damian Woetzel in The Blue Necklace
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Tom Gold and company in NYCB's Makin' Whoopee
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik