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American Ballet Theatre Fall Season: Two Americana Revivals
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American Ballet Theatre Fall Season: Two Americana Revivals

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Two Americana Revivals
Fall River Legend
Fancy Free

At City Center

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Clinton Luckett
Georgina Parkinson, Nancy Raffa

Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 5, 2007

(See More ABT Reviews and Candids)
(See an Interview with ABT Conductor, David LaMarche)

Fall River Legend (1948): Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Staged by Susan Jones, Music by Morton Gould, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Miles White, Lighting by Thomas Skelton.

November 2, 2007: Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Gillian Murphy as The Accused, Maria Bystrova as Her Mother, Martine Van Hamel as Her Stepmother, Vitali Krauchenka as Her Father, Kelley Boyd as Herself as a Child, Sascha Radetsky as Her Pastor, Eric Tamm as Speaker of the Jury, and the Company as Men and Women of Fall River and Nocturne.

November 4, 2007 Matinee: Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Michele Wiles as The Accused, Melissa Thomas as Her Mother, Georgina Parkinson as Her Stepmother, Roman Zhurbin as Her Father, Kelley Boyd as Herself as a Child, Isaac Stappas as Her Pastor, Jeffrey Golladay as Speaker of the Jury, and the Company as Men and Women of Fall River and Nocturne.

I had missed Fall River Legend in 1999, and this is one gutsy ballet. Of course the real Lizzie Borden ordeal has been changed for dramatic effect, and her plight has more pathos here than did her actual trial and release. I was wrapped in thought of how Agnes De Mille is sorely missed, her characteristic choreography so visually gripping and iconic, those stiff arches, that straight-boarded “home”, those whispering hands that make the step-mother so dreaded and dreadful. That silence, as foreboding figures emerge from the bloody hearth, just as foreboding figures had emerged after Her Mother’s collapse, and Lizzie (The Accused) emerges with the bloody dress, generates pain and angst. The stark lighting, the severe, high-necked costumes, the sterile, sexually repressive ambiance throughout, the rocking chair that moves with the passing of time, and the angularity of the wooden set, all provide a magnetism and an expectation of suspense and surrealism.

Given this expectation, clearly, the November 2 lead cast was the most memorable, the most mesmerizing. Gillian Murphy’s strengths in dramatic and physical expression added nuance and texture and literal internal trembling, as she realizes her plight, as she contemplates her tormented actions. This is a character in emotional torture, torture from without and torture from within. If ballet had a Tony, Ms. Murphy would have won it. Sascha Radetsky, as well, was superbly cast as the New England Pastor, a bit vulnerable, but always stoic. His performance was also nuanced, and their partnering worked for this slice of Early Americana. Martine Van Hamel, as Her Stepmother, was seething and devious, possessive and powerful. Vitali Krauchenka, as Her Father, remained icy cold, rejecting, self-possessed, and distancing. Kelley Boyd, as Herself as a Child, was bouncy, then devastated, as she assumed the black apron, in honor of her mother’s death.

Maria Bystrova and Melissa Thomas, both as Her Mother, although a minor role, were frail and faint, as she danced to her demise. Both Eric Tamm and Jeffrey Golladay, as Speaker of the Jury, captivated the onstage and offstage crowds with linguistic largesse.
On November 4, Michele Wiles had a remarkable debut, but she did not exude the intensity of emotion or the layers of wrath that Ms. Murphy so skillfully portrayed. Georgina Parkinson needed more nuance as well, as did Isaac Stappas, who was more externally poignant than internally boiling. Roman Zhurbin, as Her Father on November 4, has a soft edge, not so appropriate for this cold, severe genre.

However, of the two Conductors, David LaMarche seemed to keep the Morton Gould score most edgy, sharp, pounding, to add musical metaphor to the persuasive plot. Susan Jones staged this 1948 revival with quintessential “De Millean” effect. Oliver Smith’s sets were straight-arrowed and strong, and Miles White’s costumes were pure, old Fall River. Thomas Skelton’s lighting, especially in the opening moments, showcased searing pain and collective catastrophe. Kudos to Agnes De Mille.

Fancy Free (1944): (See November 4, 2006 Review) Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Staged by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton after original design by Nananne Porcher.

October 24, 2007: Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Craig Salstein, David Hallberg, and Jose Manuel Carreño as the Sailors, Paloma Herrera, Gillian Murphy, and Melissa Thomas as the Passers-By, and Julio Bragado-Young as the Bartender.

This 1944 Robbins ballet has been reviewed often in this magazine, danced by both ABT and City Ballet. I saw just one cast this Season, and I was fortunate to catch this hormonally explosive cast, with David Hallberg, Craig Salstein, and Jose Manuel Carreño as the catapulting, spinning, leg-splitting, gum-spitting, cart-wheeling Sailors out for a night on the town. Bernstein’s music drives the happy frenzy of these drinking buddies, and Gillian Murphy showed her “other self” as the seductive, saucy “Passer-By”, prior to her role as The Accused (see above). Paloma Herrera, sometimes the Black Swan, was here the girl with the red bag, and she is no one to contend with, a strong, feminine personality, always. Melissa Thomas, as the third Passer-By, was fetching to these Sailors, hungry for a woman and a bit of warmth. The Sailor solos, a showcase vehicle for virtuosic display, were each more entertaining and energetic. Craig Salstein is a rising star. Kudos to Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein.

Gillian Murphy in Fall River Legend
Photo Courtesy of  Lois Greenfield

Jose Manuel Carreño in Fancy Free
Photo Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at