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New York City Ballet: Double Feature: The Blue Necklace, Makin' Whoopee
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New York City Ballet: Double Feature: The Blue Necklace, Makin' Whoopee

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Double Feature

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
www.lincolncenter.org

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 25, 2012


(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Double Feature (2004)

Conductor: Clotilde Otranto

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, Christian Tworzyanski as Mr. Griffith, Savannah Lowery as Mrs. Griffith, Ashley Bouder as Mabel, Megan Fairchild as Florence, Tyler Angle as Billy Randolph, Callie Reiff as Young Mabel, Lily Cosgrove 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?.

This two-act ballet that replicates a “double feature” of silent films, was originally choreographed by Susan Stroman to celebrate George Balanchine’s pioneering work on Broadway. Robin Wagner created the income-starved urban home, plus the lavish ball scenery. William Ivey Long designed the colorless family costumes, followed by gowns and tuxes. Mark Stanley designed the dim, impoverished living room lighting, plus the moonlit garden with twinkling, golden allure. Susan Stroman, who has won several Tony awards, also wrote the libretto for both acts of this ballet with music arranger, Glen Kelly. Double Feature was Ms. Stroman’s first full-length ballet.

For Blue Necklace, Irving Berlin’s music (listed above) was orchestrated by Doug Besterman, and Clotilde Otranto’s conducting tonight, as always, gave the tunes extra zip and zest. This is a tale of a mother’s love, greed, jealousy, and morality. In order to facilitate the theme of the story, a silent screen of words and cues is prominently displayed at the rear of the stage, so that the ballet audience can follow the dance with theatrical enhancements. This is not the on-screen libretto of the opera, with literal translations of French or Italian, but campy, poignant phrases that seamlessly intertwine with dramatic dance and generous gestures.

With a quasi-Cinderella reference, two women of little means have given birth to daughters, who are soon left on the steps of the local church, which has been designed with German Expressionist angles. Dorothy Brooks, danced by Maria Kowroski, who is the mother of the first infant, named Mabel, is distraught at abandoning her baby for her dance career and returns to find an empty stoop, because Mr. Griffith (Christian Tworzyanski), father of the second infant, Florence, sees a note with Ms. Brooks’ life savings in the baby basket and takes both infants home to Mrs. Griffith (Savannah Lowery). Both girls are raised by the Griffiths, with obvious preference to their birth daughter, Florence, and overt hostility to the “adopted” daughter, Mabel, whose only souvenir from her real mother is the blue necklace that she obsessively wears round her neck.

Meanwhile, Dorothy Brooks becomes a famous film and dance star and searches for her daughter, as she dances round the globe with Billy Randolph (Tyler Angle). In Cinderella fashion, Mrs. Griffith tries to trick Dorothy Brooks into thinking that Florence is her heiress and real daughter, by switching the blue necklace to Florence’s neck, but Florence (Megan Fairchild) can barely dance and has little of Ms. Brooks’ physical characteristics. By chance, the real heiress, Mabel (Ashley Bouder) publicly demands the return of her blue necklace, and mother and daughter are enchantingly and emotionally reunited.

Each Berlin ballad is memorable, and the lyrics are meshed with the actual progression of the story. The theme of Always is played for the mother/daughter scenes. The sentimentality is just right, not too soapy, not too sappy, but heartfelt melodrama that appeals to an audience of multiple ages. Ms. Lowery has perfected the role of the evil and conniving Mrs. Griffith, yet with a sense of neediness and vulnerability in gesture and dance. Ms. Kowroski, as the starlet and mother, dances with poise and passion, depending on the ever-changing thematic moods. Mr. Angle was a fine Billy Randolph, chivalrous, as he wittily partners the “non-dancer”, Florence, along with the bravura dancers, Dorothy Brooks and daughter, Mabel. Ms. Bouder, as the older Mabel, has been dancing this role since its premiere, as have Ms. Kowroski and Ms. Fairchild. Ms. Bouder’s effortless ball scene, replicating that of Ms. Kowroski, for theatrical effect, was engaging and effervescent. Mr. Tworzyanski, as Mr. Griffith, new in this lesser role, showed pathos, as he cradled the two infants on the steps of the church. Ms. Fairchild, as the tiny, but older and annoying Florence, now adds improvisational capriciousness to her role, with her requisite touch of malevolence. Callie Reiff and Lily Cosgrove, of School of American Ballet, as Young Mabel and Young Florence, danced and dramatized well beyond their years..


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 Joaquin De Luz as Jimmie Shannon, Tiler Peck as Anne Windsor, Amar Ramasar as Joe Doherty, Andrew Veyette as Edward Meekin, Jonathan Stafford 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.

For Makin’ Whoopee, Ms. Stroman and team put together some of the most upbeat and “dance-delicious” songs in Broadway history. Again, we are treated to the silent film screen, with the libretto of comical cues, and Joaquin De Luz performs the role of Jimmy Shannon, who, along with his two shady business partners, have created some legal problems of their own and must find several million dollars, immediately, or go to jail. Jimmy has long courted Anne Windsor (Tiler Peck) for his bride, but the answer has always been “no”.

As it happens in campy melodramas, Jimmy’s uncle dies, and the will requires that he marry by 7 PM on his birthday (which is, of course, that very day), or he forfeits his inherited windfall. Jimmy’s friends are ecstatic, and they dance up a storm. When Anne again refuses Jimmy’s pleas, the three partners go hunting for a bride - in the park, on the street corners, and all over town. After several failed efforts, they advertise in the local news (which is miraculously published on the spot), and the entire Corps of brides in luscious white textured bridal gowns converge on the church in time to wed the soon to be very rich Jimmy. In this Corps are both male dancers in drag and their female counterparts. These scenes, inside and outside the church, of brides chasing the helpless heir, are among the most hilarious in ballet history. The ending and lucky bride will remain a surprise. There’s even a little trained dog in this dervish of dancers.

Mr. De Luz and Ms. Peck are a seasoned dance couple, but these roles were fairly new. Their theatrical techniques and energy level were hormonally high throughout. Mr. De Luz gave many knowing glances to the audience and seemed thrilled to be starring in this adorable work. He bounded and bounced through the air with verve. Ms. Peck, who matches his virtuosity and charisma, seized the stage and story. Amar Ramasar, Andrew Veyette, and Jonathan Stafford, as Doherty, Meekin, and Garrison, were hilarious and high-spirited in their syncopated choreography and antics. Additional dancers were the park passersby, many of whom were wooed to wed Jimmie before 7 PM. They were Stephanie Zungre as Georgy, Amanda Hankes as Peggy, Lauren Lovette as Irene, Gwyneth Muller as Irene’s Mother, Rebecca Krohn as Flossy, Justin Peck as Flossy’s Husband, and Cameron Dieck as Preacher. Each tiny park vignette was enchanting, and Oh, so Broadway. Kudos to Susan Stroman, once again.




Maria Kowroski and Ashley Bouder in
Stroman's Double Feature: "The Blue Necklace"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net