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New York City Ballet: Double Feature 2008

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Pier 83, West 42nd Street, NYC

New York City Ballet
Double Feature
(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, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Manager, Press Relations, Joe Guttridge
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 1, 2008

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Conductor: Fayçal Karoui
(See February 19, 2005 Review)

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, Savannah Lowery as Mrs. Griffith, Ashley Bouder as Mabel, Megan Fairchild as Florence, Damian Woetzel as Billy Randolph, Skyla Shreter as Young Mabel, Clara Ruf-Muldonado 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?.

Double Feature has matured into City Ballet repertoire as one of its most poignant, yet good-humored ballets. The Blue Necklace presents seasoned performers (Jason Fowler briefly as Mr. Griffith, Maria Kowroski as Dorothy Brooks, Damian Woetzel as Billy Randolph, Ashley Bouder as the grown-up Mabel, and Megan Fairchild as the grown-up Florence). The story involves Dorothy Brooks, a famous dancer, who leaves a baby (Mabel) she cannot afford on the steps of a church. Mr. Griffith has just done the same with baby Florence. With a change of heart, he takes both babies home. Mrs. Griffith has the stereotypical step-mother role to Mabel, stealing the cash left in the baby bundle for home decorations and gifts for Florence. Mr. Griffith dies, the young girls battle, and a party is scheduled by Dorothy Brooks to showcase Billy Randolph, Superstar, where Mabel’s true identity is revealed, through her quintessential ballet bravura.

Susan Stroman and Glen Kelly created a superb libretto (read on the silent-movie styled screen), and Ms. Stroman’s choreography allows for the introduction of two youthful School of American ballet students to dance about the house as young Florence and Mabel. Both Skyla Shreter and Clara Ruf-Muldonado exuded star-like performance qualities, poise, confidence, and scintillating force as upcoming ballerinas to watch. As the grown Florence, Megan Fairchild threw herself, slumped posture, campy-klutzy, into her role, both at home and at the festive party, where she tries to convince Billy Randolph that she can dance. Her vulnerability is apparent (with a champagne buzz to boot), as she does not know that the blue necklace she wears belongs to the real Mabel, a keepsake from Dorothy Brooks, and when Ashley Bouder, as Mabel, publicly demands her necklace, the rapture unfolds.

Dorothy Brooks (Maria Kowroski) is visibly moved to find her long-lost daughter, and she and Mabel (Ms. Bouder) are dressed similarly and dance similarly. Simultaneously, Billy Randolph (Mr. Woetzel) can finally dance up a storm, as he seems smitten with this ingénue, and the choreography is kicked up to leaps, lifts, and lyrical lines. Mr. Woetzel knows no limit to his boundless athleticism, and his dramatic characterizations this season are truly remarkable. Ms. Kowroski danced two lovely solos, one at the beginning, before she succumbs to secret maternity pains, and one at the end (many years later), when she dances for her guests. This is one of her finest roles. Savannah Lowery, as Mrs. Griffith, seemed too young to be Ms. Bouder’s mother. Fantasy is everything. Kyra Nichols had played this original role in a more persuasive manner, as Ms. Lowery was just too adorable to be the devious matron. However, she exudes generous amounts of dramatic drive.

The Company, as chorus girls in the opening dance, and as party guests in the closing dance, was outstanding. This time around, I was able to focus on that opening number, evocative of The Rockettes, with shiny black-nighttime glitz. When Dorothy Brooks is ordered out of the show for her outlawed pregnancy, the pathos began. Robin Wagner’s sets are sumptuous, and William Ivey Long created the multitudinous black-white-grey costumes (for this silent movie motif). Irving Berlin’s songs, such as “All Alone”, could not have sounded better, nor could the lyrics have been more piercing, as each song matched the unfolding drama. Mark Stanley set the mood with lush lighting.

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, Tiler Peck as Anne Windsor, Amar Ramasar as Joe Doherty, Robert Fairchild as Edward Meekin, Arch Higgins as Garrison, Students from School of American Ballet, and the Company.

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.

Makin’ Whoopee, with Walter Donaldson’s lively tunes, such as “My Baby Just Cares for Me”, is pure fun and frolic, an old-fashioned romance, and some B-movie camp, as well. Jimmie Shannon just can’t get himself to propose to Anne Windsor at the white picket fence and flower potted cottage. Meanwhile, at Jimmie’s law firm, he and his partners, Joe Dougherty and Edward Meekin, are accused of a crime and must pay back millions of dollars immediately or go to jail. Just in time, Jimmie’s uncle dies and leaves a will donating just the amount that his firm owes, but with a catch. Jimmie must wed by 7:00 PM that very night, his birthday. Thus the games begin.

Tom Gold is the quintessential Charlie Chaplin figure (this is still a silent movie double-feature with text on the backdrop screen), and he still kicks up his legs and does amazing splits and side leaps. His facial expressions are priceless in this campy genre. Tiler Peck, as Anne Windsor, has astute timing, as she keeps missing that intended proposal, and her final bridal romp is infectiously heart-warming. Amar Ramasar and Robert Fairchild are the new Dougherty and Meekin, and they had just the right daring desperation to drive Jimmie to the alter. Mr. Ramasar, especially, dances and dramatizes this season with aplomb. Arch Higgins was Garrison, Jimmie’s uncle’s lawyer, and he added wit to his dance that brought this event over the top. Various female soloists performed persuasively as the would-be brides, as they strolled or relaxed in Central Park, one laughing in repeated appearances, one flirting (Teresa Reichlen as a sassy, sexy Flossy), one too young (Rachel Piskin as Irene), and more. William Berloni, an animal trainer, trained a tiny terrier to occasionally steal the show.

The Company, as dozens of brides in unique white veils and dresses (both male and female), showing up at the church in an effort to wed into Jimmie’s inheritance, was truly hilarious. This was the best (non-silent) silent film I have ever seen, and this work (plus West Side Story Suite comes to mind) showcases the versatility and vast depth of talent in City Ballet corps and Company as a whole. These are dancers who can dance, can act, can sing, and can capture the essence of entertainment. Kudos to Susan Stroman and Glen Kelly

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