Any rational person upon hearing Kimiko Glenn perform Nothing from A Chorus Line in 2002 would have concluded that she was bound for a proper Broadway stage. Through her YouTube channel we can now see her performing a song from a new Off-Broadway musical titled Freckleface Strawberry based on the children’s book by the same name. (Skip to 1:45 to hear just the song.)
Boston Ballet’s Melissa Hough first caught my attention at this time last year when she danced the part of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. Tonight, I had the pleasure of seeing her in the title role of the ballet’s current production, Coppélia.
Her dancing was beautiful, elegant, and precise; her acting emotional and engaging; and her smile addictive. She made the show. And that’s saying an awful lot, given the talent and character of everyone on stage, in the orchestra, and behind the scenes of this performance.
Coppélia is the story of a girl, Swanhilde, who loves a boy who finds himself flirting from afar with someone else — someone who turns out to be just a life-sized doll atop the balcony of a toymaker’s workshop. Swanhilde (Hough) sneaks into the workshop, puts on the doll’s clothes, and simultaneously tricks the poor dollmaker into thinking his beloved creation has come to life while showing her beau how foolish he was to think the doll was a real girl.
The story is delightful and Boston Ballet tells it perfectly with beautiful sets and costumes, devine music, and most importantly, the best dancing this side of imagination. This was one of the best performances I’ve seen of any sort in quite some time.
Coppélia continues through April 18. I suggest you try it yourself.
In the opening scene of A Chorus Line — one of the greatest opening numbers in Broadway history — we see a group of dancers auditioning for a part in an upcoming musical — the unnamed “show within a show.”
In the opening scene of Every Little Step (available from Netflix), we see a group of dancers auditioning for a part in A Chorus Line where, as you may remember from the previous sentence, they’ll portray dancers auditioning for parts in an unnamed “show within a show.”
Everybody got that?
The film shows us the real-life audition for the recent A Chorus Line revival, which so closely parallels the audition scene from the musical that the film cuts between them seamlessly. We see whole songs put together from a dozen individual people going for the same part, some with wildly different styles. Different actresses read the same dialog, one after the next, leaving us, the audience, rooting for the people we want cast.
The film also plays some of the original taped interviews with dancers in 1974 that first inspired A Chorus Line, showing us how some simple if emotional anecdotes told among friends became some of Broadway’s best known music.
Really, the film is itself what A Chorus Line was in 1975: a look at what it’s like to be a dancer competing for a role, and how thrilling success can be.
The DVD includes a director’s commentary — i.e., an interview about the auditions for the show about the auditions for the other show based on interviews about various auditions for other shows. I’d love to listen to it, but I have a very real fear that exploring that many levels of “meta” could unravel the very fabric of the universe.
Spring Awakening now comes with the strongest of recommendations.
This musical manipulates what we know as traditional musical theater to tell a real story, with literally nothing held back. While the family behind me rushed their preteen daughters out the door before the first act had ended, I stayed to the end and have seldom found anything so enthralling.
A saleswoman roamed the aisles during intermission hawking CDs of the soundtrack, but this wasn’t the sort of catchy score I’d want to take home. More like the instrumentation underlying a motion picture, I considered the music merely a backdrop to the story: a way of conveying the necessary level of emotion.
And the story… I saw on stage simultaneously myself and everyone I knew in high school. While women may identify less strongly with a story principally about adolescent boys, Martha and Ilsa’s interlude was painfully moving, and the central plot surrounding Wendela is universal.
I discovered this show first through Kimiko Glenn, whom I liked before and like now. Steffi D, of Canadian Idol fame, wonderfully portrayed Ilsa, and Kyle Riabko, reprising his Melchior from Broadway, won me over entirely. But complete credit for the show’s hardest emotional pull goes to Christy Altomere as Wendela.
I want into the theatre knowing little more than that this musical has some graphic moments, including the simulated sex that drove that preteen family from the theatre, but left understanding parenthood, adolescence, and the compelling power of a well-told story about first love.