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American Ballet Theatre: Whipped Cream

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American Ballet Theatre

Whipped Cream

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Clinton Luckett, Assistant Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Principal Ballet Mistress
Ballet Masters: Irina Kolpakova,
Carlos Lopez, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Jenny Lee, Director of Marketing
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 24, 2017

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Spring Season Ballet Music.)

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

Whipped Cream (2017): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music and Libretto by Richard Strauss, Set and Costume Design by Mark Ryden, Scenic Design supervision by Camellia Koo, Costume Design supervision by Holly Hynes, Lighting Design by Brad Fields. Performed by Daniil Simkin as The Boy, Sarah Lane as Princess Praline, Isabella Boylston as Princess Tea Flower, Alban Lendorf as Prince Coffee, Joseph Gorak as Prince Cocoa, Blaine Hoven as Don Zucchero, Alexei Agoudine as Chef / Doctor, Catherine Hurlin as Mademoiselle Marianne Chartreuse, Duncan Lyle as Ladislav Slivovitz, Roman Zhurbin as Boris Wutki, Max Barker as Nico, Master of Ceremonies, and the Company as Attendants, Guards, Swirl Girls, Marzipan Men, Sugarplum Men, Gingerbread Men, Whipped Cream, Nurses, Priest, Carriage Driver, Horses, Snow Yak, Cake Ladies, Gumball Lady, Chocolate Chip Man, Parfait Man, Chef Head Man, Long Neck Piggy, Cherry Head, Pink Yak, Warm Candy Man, Nicolo Driver, and Students from the JKO Ballet School as Children and Cupcake Children.

Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence at Ballet Theatre, has revived the 1924 Vienna ballet, Schlagobers, by Richard Strauss. He premiered his newest ballet at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in California in March. For those looking for grand spectacle and visual fantasies of sweets and fairy tales, this is the perfect ballet. For those looking for actual virtuosic dancing, romantic themes, and orchestral melodies to play repetitively in the mind, rewinding memories of balletic yearning and athleticism, this ballet will be vastly disappointing. The Strauss score, most importantly, while expertly conducted tonight by Ormsby Wilkins, is completely esoteric, unmelodic, undramatic, and unmemorable. No Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, or Massenet here. This is, after all, a full-length, two-act ballet, not a brief, abstract repertory work. What Ratmansky has relied on to carry Whipped Cream are the over the top sets and costumes, the characters with giant heads and stilt-walking figures, by Mark Ryden, similar to Richard Hudson’s designs for Ratmansky’s recently premiered The Golden Cockerel. The issues of a ballet as giant media event, resembling an outdoor opera festival more than an indoor ballet in an opera house, continue with Whipped Cream.

The storyline, as well, reads like a cross between Dickens, “Twilight Zone”, and Grimm. A Boy (Daniil Simkin) and his friends receive First Communion, then are treated to an array of confectionary sweets. The Boy vastly overindulges in whipped cream and becomes quite sick. He’s removed for treatments. Once the children leave, all the confections come alive, the Marzipan Men (male dance quartet) shoot arrows, Sugarplum men (male quartet) have spears, Gingerbread Men (male dance quartet) conduct a military march…In fact, Princess Tea Flower (Isabella Boylston) chooses Prince Coffee (Alban Lendorf) as her mate. He has competition from Don Zucchero (Blaine Hoven) and Prince Cocoa Joseph Gorak).

The Chef (Alexei Agoudine) starts whipping up cream, and in the hazy, medicated world of The Boy’s dream, the entire shop is made of whipped cream (Corps female ensemble of sixteen). Act II opens in a terrifying hospital room, cared for by a Doctor (also Mr. Agoudine) and numerous Nurses (Corps female ensemble of twelve). When the medical staff leaves, Princess Praline (Sarah Lane) comes to the rescue with her “procession”, and The Boy escapes. Soon the Doctor takes liquor for a headache, and liquor bottles come to life. After the Nurses find and return The Boy, the liquor bottles become animated, Mademoiselle Marianne Chartreuse (Catherine Hurlin), Ladislav Slivovitz (Duncan Lyle) and Boris Wutki (Roman Zhurbin), and Doctor and Nurses are drunk. Princess Praline brings The Boy to her kingdom and a huge outdoor celebration, with Nicolo, Master of Ceremonies. The dreamlike fantasy of this event becomes The Boy’s new life. (ABT Program Notes).

Although Ratmansky’s Whipped Cream is not a ballet I wish to see again, as the music unfolds with droning, soporific effect, the storyline becomes so outlandish and diffuse that one loses interest early, and the choreography has to accommodate the packed stage of over-produced sets, costumes, and props (like mountain-size heads and life-size hypodermic needles), the colors, shapes, and overall gestalt of the spectacle made it worth the one viewing. Many special events require patience and fortitude, and Whipped Cream is best seen as a special event, a spectacle, again, on the line of Ratmansky’s The Golden Cockerel. This is not a show for children, with the satirical hospital scene, as no child would volunteer for an exam again, especially one involving a needle. Whipped cream ladies sliding down ramps in dry ice, a giant furry dog and a giant furry cat, a candy worm that crawls, children as cupcakes, male liquor bottles of vodka and brandy fighting over a female Chartreuse, a chef and doctor whose heads show no moving facial expressions, and that occasional and well received bit of unblocked torso, legs, and arms in dance, here and there, reminding us we’re at a ballet, are what makes up the gestalt of Whipped Cream. As the curtain fell, I missed Manon more than ever.

Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin
with Cast in "Whipped Cream"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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