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New York City Ballet: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, For the Love of Duke, See the Music…, West Side Story Suite
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New York City Ballet: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, For the Love of Duke, See the Music…, West Side Story Suite

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
For the Love of Duke
See the Music…
West Side Story Suite

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications &Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 25, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1968): Music by Richard Rodgers (from On Your Toes, 1936), Re-Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Tyler Angle, Maria Kowroski, Ask la Cour, Adam Hendrickson, and the Company.

Tonight was an all-Broadway theme, and Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, excerpted from the 1936 show, On Your Toes, is a favorite of City Ballet audiences. This production shows a witty side of Balanchine, beginning with Morrosine, a premier danseur noble (Adam Hendrickson), who hires a Gangster (Vincent Paradiso) to sit upstairs and shoot the show’s Hoofer (Tyler Angle), in his final dance. It’s a show within a ballet, with Maria Kowroski as the Striptease Girl, pretending (in the ballet’s skit) that she’s really shot, and a Big Boss (Ask la Cour), who thinks he owns the Girl, so he’s jealous of the Hoofer. There’s also a Thug (Ralph Ippolito) in the show within the show, Bartenders, Policemen, and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ballet (Corps).

This delightful Robbins work was so welcome as the opening to tonight’s program, with its entertaining set, by Jo Mielziner, and its rousing Richard Rodgers score (re-orchestrated by Hershy Kay). Irene Sharaff’s sexy, retro costumes add even more life to this very vibrant ballet. Ms. Kowroski’s long limbs seize the stage, as she lifts them over Tyler Angle in some mesmerizing moves. Mr. Angle’s hoofing is passable, and he shows spirit, but I remember both Damian Woetzel and Philip Neal in this role a number of years ago, with stronger results. Mr. la Cour, as always, was magnetic as Big Boss, ferocious and tall, a dramatic performer, and Mr. Hendrickson had a front-curtain speaking role with charming effect. At times, the Gangster stole the show. Mr. Paradiso sat Side Parterre, adjusting his hat and his gun, as the Hoofer danced and danced. Maestro Karoui kept the music rambunctious.

For The Love of Duke (2011): Choreography by Susan Stroman, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conducted by David Berger, Guest Artists: David Berger Jazz Orchestra, Original Transcriptions by David Berger.

I. Frankie and Johnny…and Rose: Music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Arranged by Doug Besterman, Performed by Amar Ramasar, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns.

II. Sunset: Music by Duke Ellington, Performed by Lauren Lovette.

III. Johnny’s Lament: Music by Duke Ellington, Performed by Amar Ramasar.

IV. Blossom Got Kissed: Music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Arranged by Andy Farber, Performed by Savannah Lowery, Robert Fairchild, and the Company.

I applauded this Susan Stroman work, when it premiered in January, and I applaud it more loudly even now. In addition to Parts I and IV, which used to be Parts I and II, Ms. Stroman has added two solos, one for Lauren Lovette, fairly new in the Corps, and Amar Ramasar, a principal, who’s the Johnny in this Broadway-styled extravaganza. The loosely pieced story has Johnny playing two women for fools (Sara Mearns as Frankie and Tiler Peck as Rose), as he flirts with, dances with, then shoves, first Rose, then Frankie, behind a bench, finally dancing with both, then, after losing both, embracing a third woman, now called Sunset (Ms. Lovette). Her new dance song is Ellington’s “Sunset and the Mocking Bird”, and Ms. Lovette proves herself to be an artist to watch.

Mr. Ramasar’s new Ellington song for his solo is “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, and Mr. Ramasar is already an artist to keep watching. He has charisma, personality, style, rhythm, presence, and muscular power. In this expanded role for Johnny, he was outstanding. Even in Part I, when Mr. Ramasar fielded both women, it seemed that Ms. Stroman had added a foxtrot for three, although maybe I forgot it from last time. Ms. Mearns has allure and sensuality, all commanding attention to her performance, and Ms. Peck, always the dynamo, has expanded her gestures and theatrics, with extra flirtation and frivolity.

Part IV, “Blossom Got Kissed”, still begins with Robert Fairchild, as a pretend musician in the orchestra, dropping a triangle, wooing Blossom, Savannah Lowery, kissing her, and making her into a great dancer as a result of his romantic power. The sequence is new, but the segment is much the same. Mr. Fairchild is true Broadway styled, and his solos are magnetic. He’s the quintessential “guy” who gets the “girl”. Ms. Lowery has become more confident in her role, adding nuance, as the feigned, insecure ingénue. David Berger and his Jazz Orchestra were once again fantastic, with this even lengthier ballet, and their extra trills were welcome. Kudos to Susan Stroman.

See the Music… A musical exploration of Leonard Bernstein’s score for West Side Story, Featuring Fayçal Karoui, and New York City Ballet Orchestra.

“See the Music” is an orchestral interlude, begun after the Koch Theater was renovated, when the orchestra pit was given a rising lift, so the audience could occasionally see the musicians. This new effect was a shared perk for City Ballet and New York City Opera, the latter no longer in residence at Koch Theater. Once again, Maestro Karoui joked around with the audience and gave a few featured musicians a chance to shine in solo. He also informed the audience of Bernstein’s creation of some of the phrasing, its similarity with phrases of Bernstein’s composer colleagues, and musical highlights for tonight’s closing ballet, Robbins’ West Side Story Suite.

West Side Story Suite (1995): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Book by Arthur Laurents, Co-Choreographer: Peter Gennaro, Guest Singers: Rob Lorey, Lara Marie Hirner, Jane Brockman, Julie Price, Whitney Webster, Performed by Chase Finlay as Tony, Andrew Veyette as Riff, Justin Peck as Bernardo, Jenifer Ringer as Anita, Lauren Lovette as Maria, Gretchen Smith as Rosalia, and the Company as The Jets, Their Girls, and The Sharks, Their Girls. Mr. Sondheim began his career as a lyricist with West Side Story in 1957 and then with Gypsy in 1959. His theatrical mentor was Oscar Hammerstein. (NYCB Notes).

There’s nothing like a new cast to freshen up a familiar ballet, and with Chase Finlay as Tony, Justin Peck as Riff, and Lauren Lovette as Maria, we saw three Corps dancers in new roles. All three made these roles shine. Mr. Finlay and Ms. Lovette are ingénue, youthful, right for this Romeo-Juliet themed take on a Broadway show (Bernstein’s West Side Story of course). Jerome Robbins collaborated with Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Mr. Bernstein for this one-act ballet, and, when we hear the City Ballet dancers actually singing “Somewhere”, it’s an astounding experience. Also astounding was Mr. Finlay’s characterization of the Tony-Romeo role, set in New York’s West Side. He leaped and bounded about with persuasive angst.

Mr. Veyette, as, Riff, Leader of the Jets, sings, acts, dances, and generally performs with powerful charisma. He’s a walking ad for ginseng, one of City Ballet’s finest. Mr. Peck, new as Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, was all slicked up and raring to fight. His back alley knife scene (the take on the Shakespearean sword scene) was literally scary. He threw himself into the role. Ms. Lovette, new as Maria, looked so tiny and young, yet vibrant and vulnerable. Jenifer Ringer is a seasoned Anita, who sings and dances up a storm in “America”, filling it with sassy pizzazz. Gretchen Smith, as Anita’s friend, Rosalia, also acted and danced with verve. The Jets, The Sharks, and Their Girls, were performed by the Corps with precise timing, energy, and vivacity. Mr. Robbins’ choreography seamlessly segues from Oliver Smith’s dark alley to bright high school dance to fantasy rainbow. Jennifer Tipton’s lighting also shifts with the ever-changing action. Irene Sharaff’s casual costumes put pastels on the Jets and Girls and black-red on the Sharks and Girls.

It would be great for one more shift to occur, some new casting in the professional singers. The Juilliard School and New York Festival of Song have superb singers, many of whom are beginning careers. This ballet would be perfect to try out their vocal talent, as sometimes tonight’s very seasoned vocalists (most seem to appear regularly here) were less than enthralling. Fayçal Karoui kept the Bernstein score brilliantly presented and full of life, and the audience stood on its feet at the curtain. Kudos to Jerome Robbins.

Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar
in Susan Stroman's
"For the Love of Duke"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik.

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