News Ticker

Articles by Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (351 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

I Never Sang for My Father

September 14, 2019

The trouble is Lee’s almost catatonic approach to Gene.  He speaks in a toneless monotone and adapts a monolithic physical approach, his hands constantly held stiffly at his sides.  When he does erupt in anger it registers as bizarre overacting rather than the culmination of a life of living under his father’s thumb.  This leaves an emotional vacuum in the center of the play.  Even when he delivers the poignant punch line—“Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship”—what should have been an emotional wallop becomes a whimper. [more]

The Ringdove

September 11, 2019

What raised "The Ringdove" above mere creative story-time theater was the exquisite artwork and detailed performances.  The perfect, colorful costumes (by Casey Compton) that evoked everything from Greek myths to desert Bedouins were topped by Lee’s brilliant mask heads.  Lee also supplied the scenery which included ephemerally leaved trees and a turtle pond that was a witty work of high art, a microcosmic version of a tiny ecosystem.  Lee and his colleagues created an oasis pleasant to the eyes and ears, all the while teaching a moral about the interconnectedness of all living things. [more]

Guangzhou Ballet of China: “Carmina Burana” & “Goddess of the Luo River”

August 23, 2019

Presented at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater by the China Arts and Entertainment Group Ltd., the company used its impressive resource of dancers in two large-scale ballets:  "Goddess of the Luo River" choreographed by the Canadian, Peter Quanz to a Western-sounding violin concerto by the Chinese composer Du Mingxin and "Carmina Burana" choreographed by the Chinese national, Jiang Qi to the famous (infamous?) score by Carl Orff.The former was a run-of-the-mill ballet weighed down by fuzzily pretentious program notes.  Three characters—Yi Ren (Fang Afang), Lian Jun (Huang Baimao) and Ruo Shui (Ma Minghao)—led the corps de ballet in several merry chases that involved processions, movements rolling down lines of dancers, non-romantic encounters and show-off solos by the male contingent, all ending in a pretty arrangement of the dancers across the Koch stage with one of the characters held imposingly high as if overlooking her kingdom. [more]

Under Siege (Yang Liping Contemporary Dance Company of China)

August 11, 2019

Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival 2019 presented the lavish, yet somehow intimate, "Under Siege," a stunning production of the Yang Liping Contemporary Dance Company of China.Its chief choreographer and director Yang Liping had the audacity to put on stage an epic tale of an ancient war, the Chu-Han Conflict that pitted hundreds of thousands against each other.  Her brilliant idea was to concentrate on each of the leading characters in the conflict and, by telling their fascinating stories, thereby revealing the immensity of war and its ghastly consequences. [more]

Ballet Festival: Program A

August 10, 2019

Joseph Sissens in Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits,” in The Joyce Theater’s Ballet Festival (Program A) (Photo credit: Maria Baranova)The Joyce Theater is presenting a two-week Ballet Festival, four programs under the artistic direction of Kevin O’Hare, director of The Royal Ballet.  Each program is curated by a different dance expert, the first by O’Hare, himself.Program A was divided into two parts, the first the more sedately classical, the second showing newer, more contemporary fare.  It was a fascinating, focused study of the state of ballet today, featuring, appropriately, two works by the British master of classical ballet, Sir Frederick Ashton. [more]

Blak Whyte Gray (Boy Blue)

August 5, 2019

Co-conceived by Asante and Kenrik “H2O” Sandy who choreographed and directed the production, "Blak Whyte Gray" was constructed in two parts and three sections.  Part I began with “Whyte,” danced by Ricardo Da Silva, Gemma Kay Hoddy and Nicole McDowall dressed in variations on straitjackets.  (Sleek, pale, layered costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight.) All three were trapped in a rectangle of light which gradually shrunk making their already frantic movements even more so.  The music boomed as they vibrated, twisted, pulsated and stopped with dramatic suddenness.  This was desperation of the highest order. [more]

Monica: This Play is Not About Monica Lewinsky

July 30, 2019

The title of playwright Dianne Nora’s fascinating new work, "Monica: This Play is Not About Monica Lewinsky," is disingenuous.  Is it about you-know-who?  Well, yes and no.  There were passing references to the title character’s notoriety and enough images of and quotes from President Clinton, among others, to imply that the title is, at best, a white lie; at worst it is a tongue-in-cheek bait-and-switch.  But if that is a way of getting an audience to see this incisive and adult drama, then more power to Ms. Nora who knows how to write sharply focused dialogue. [more]

Freddie Falls in Love

July 26, 2019

How Freddie resolves his amorous adventures is cleverly handled by Blackstone using an imaginative combination of ballet, modern dance, mime and popular dance forms.  The score is made up of over twenty songs including:  “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?.” “Dream Lover,” “We Are In Love,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” “La Valse á Milles Temps,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and a song written and performed live by Mike Brun. [more]

Maria Kochetkova: Catch Her If You Can

July 18, 2019

Russian-born Maria Kochetkova, the petite ballerina who spent the major portion of her career with the San Francisco Ballet, has turned herself into a small-scale Diaghilev.  Her Maria Kochetkova: Catch Her If You Can at The Joyce Theater is a gathering of five brilliant dancers (including herself) dancing the works of seven contemporary choreographers.Even with her name on the program, Catch Her If You Can was pleasantly un-self-aggrandizing, feeling more like a—very expensive—jam session.So ego-free was the evening that Ms. Kochetkova clearly felt no reluctance to pair herself with Drew Jacoby in Jacoby’s duet “Rachel, Nevada” choreographed to an eerie score by Sam Spiegel. [more]

Six Years Old

July 18, 2019

"Six Years Old" is a gem of a play, its facets polished by the director Helen Handelman.  Every emotional revelation, no matter how subtle is illuminated by the acting of its four-member cast:  Julia Weldon as the willful six-year-old Adelaide, just beginning to find her gender identity; Conor William Wright as her precocious four-year-old brother Dewey; Diane Chen as their put-upon, not very professional babysitter Kim; and Meghan E. Jones as their seemingly calm mother Rachel. [more]

Mark Morris Dance Group 2019: “Sport”

July 12, 2019

The world premiere “Sport,” choreographed to more than twenty bits and pieces by Erik Satie, appropriately named “Sports et divertissements” (played by the brilliant pianist Colin Fowler), was a not very exciting examination of every competitive sport from golf to sailing to swimming to running to tennis to etc. Dressed in Elizabeth Kurtzman’s colorful one-piece overalls, the cast of twelve imitated in both exaggerated and subtle ways these activities, sometimes in silence and sometimes to the Satie music. Morris is imaginative enough to turn athletics into dance, but the work was simply too episodic and disjointed even with his use of repeated motifs—like dancers being dragged across the stage on large swaths of cloth—to give the work some unity and form. The end result was more of beautifully crafted mime than a full-fledged ballet. [more]

The Bournonville Legacy

July 11, 2019

The second part of the program was a bonanza of Bournonville excerpts, danced to not particularly memorable scores, that worked well even without colorful scenery.  The beautiful, colorful costumes, arranged by Katharina Neergaard certainly helped, particularly in “The Jockey Dance” from From Siberia to Moscow danced exuberantly by Marcin Kupinski and Alexander Bozinoff dressed in brilliant red jockey duds.  The only criticism:  they might have looked less glum in their facial expressions. [more]

Masquerade

June 19, 2019

Ukrainian director Rimas Tuminas has led the Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia in a massacre of Mikhail Lermontov’s 1845 play "Masquerade."  Presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival, the spectacle on stage at the New York City Center made a mockery of an intelligent verse play that beautifully reveals the passions underneath the elegant façade of early 19th century Russian high society. [more]

Three Musketeers: 1941

June 16, 2019

Megan Monaghan Rivas’ gender-bending take on the popular, much-adapted Alexandre Dumas 1844 novel, "The Three Musketeers," moves the action from the 17th century to Paris during World War II. A very dedicated group of brave women take part in the Underground fighting behind enemy lines to sabotage the Nazis who were occupying most of France.Written for the Women in Theatre Festival (WIT) and staged at the beautiful A.R.T./New York Theatres on the far West Side, an area which is filling up with fresh new theatrical venues, "Three Musketeers: 1941" is a brave expression of the power of women. [more]

The Pygmalion Effect

June 14, 2019

By placing his ballet in the realm of the high-strung ballroom world, Eifman supplied himself plenty of excuses to make dances that bounced about the stage to his score of a parade of waltzes, polkas, marches and bits and pieces of the output of some of the many “Waltz King” Strausses (Johann the Son, Josef and Eduard) with one interlude of Mozart tossed in at the end. [more]

Midnight Street

June 10, 2019

Cohen is clearly an intelligent, well-read man, familiar with the twists and turns of different periods and styles.  "Midnight Street" is chock full of ideas, poetic meanderings and some worthwhile melodies but just doesn’t add up.  His direction can’t overcome the pretentious language and heavy-handed symbolism.  Only a Lotte Lenya or, perhaps, a Patti LuPone might have given Mr. Cohen’s songs the right gravity, not to mention finding sense where none exists. [more]

Michael Mao Dance 2019

May 31, 2019

Michael Mao Dance is celebrating 26 years of presenting Mao’s work and if his recent program at the Ailey Citigroup Theater is any evidence, there is reason to believe he will continue for another 26 years.  His works are varied, yet clearly come from the mind of the same artist. [more]

Octet

May 29, 2019

Malloy, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, has taken a novel approach, staging Octet as if it were a 12-step program in which all the members of the group express their inner thoughts through a cappella singing all the while following the precepts of an AA or OA meeting.  Annie Tippe has taken this sophisticated mass of brilliance and shaped it around the sensational talents of a small cast which performs miracles of acting and singing. [more]

Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1965 & 1978

May 27, 2019

Several songs were from flop shows and given new life by Streisand:  “He Touched Me” from "Drat! The Cat!" sung with infectious flirtatiousness by Lianne Marie Dobbs; “Why Did I Choose You?” from "The Yearling," given a luscious rendition by Nicole Henry; and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” benefiting from Ethan Slater’s enthusiasm and charm. [more]

Curse of the Starving Class

May 27, 2019

The original production of "Curse of the Starving Class" in 1977 was a shocker even for a time when permissiveness prevailed.  Kinney seems to have decided that the play Shepard wrote isn’t sufficiently meaningful or effective, so he decided to exaggerate everything, beginning with the scenery—a large, dumpy, shopworn kitchen—literally breaking apart accompanied by explosive noises before the play begins.  The set is left hanging in pieces as the characters go about their business. [more]

High Button Shoes

May 20, 2019

But, fear not!  The Encores! creative team—director John Rando, music director, Rob Berman and choreographer Sarah O’Gleby—found a terrific cast led by Michael Urie in the Phil Silvers’ role of Harrison Floy and Betsy Wolfe as (Mama) Sarah Longstreet, Nanette Fabray’s role (which featured the earworm ditty “Papa, Won’t You Dance With Me?”). [more]

Mark Morris Dance Group: Pepperland

May 16, 2019

"Pepperland," however, will not do anything for Morris’ reputation as a choreographer.  His dearth of choreographic invention—including constant repetition of a few steps, gestures and partnering tricks—was hidden behind colorful period costumes (Elizabeth Kurtzman), an odd set consisting of piles of reflective ribbons (Johan Henckens), inspired lighting (Nick Kolin) and fantastic arrangements of songs from the Beatles’ landmark 1967 "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" album (Ethan Iverson).  There’s something to be said for simplicity, but if it were not for the other elements "Pepperland" would not hold up to some of his other ingenious masterpieces like "Grand Duo," "Dido and Aeneas" and his superb "L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato." [more]

92Y Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “A Beautiful Dawning: ‘Oklahoma!’ at 75”

May 13, 2019

Ted Chapin, the writer and host of the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists Series’ "A Beautiful Dawning: Oklahoma! at 75," did an impeccable job creating one of the best editions of this important series.  Here was a program both entertaining and informative.  The information was as enjoyable as the performances of the four singers who were directed and choreographed by Parker Esse and accompanied by the incredible Andy Einhorn and his brilliant musical ensemble. [more]

Tootsie

May 7, 2019

Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels still has most of his/her friends and professional acquaintances from the movie version with some new twists:  Jeff Slater, his playwright roommate (a wonderfully sardonic Andy Grotelueschen) having difficulty setting words to paper; former girlfriend, hyper-paranoid unemployed actress Sandy Lester (Sarah Stiles, doing mega-ditzy with all pistons firing); leading lady Julie Nichols (Lilli Cooper, lovely, good voice, but not as romantically vivid as she should be); clueless show director Ron Carlisle who’s not quite as sexist as in the film; and, finally, lascivious actor Max Van Horn (John Behlmann, who nearly steals the show with his brilliantly acrobatic machinations), now a dull-witted, malaprop-spouter who falls hard for the older Dorothy. [more]

The Battles of Richmond Hill

May 3, 2019

It is a well crafted story of a feisty seventy-something Sheila O’Connor (Nora Chester who does feisty beautifully) whose grandson, physician Brian O’Connor (an earnest Jordan Ahnquist), who worries about her believes she would be better off in a retirement community in New Jersey.  Brian tries to force the issue by telling Sheila that he has packed her a suitcase and is parked down the block waiting for her to accompany him to New Jersey. [more]

Socrates

May 3, 2019

For all you philosophy junkies out there—and you know who you are—Tim Blake Nelson’s world premiere "Socrates" at The Public Theater, the shining light of The Public’s Onassis Festival, is a treasure trove of ideas bantered, tossed, shredded and otherwise analyzed by a stage-full of ancient Greeks, led by the title character played with dignity and passion by the phenomenal Michael Stuhlbarg (the father in the film "Call Me By Your Name") and a cast of 16 mostly playing multiple roles. [more]

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain

April 28, 2019

Likability is in short supply nowadays and the three playwright/performers who created this comedy, based on an actual pamphlet handed to Americans during World War II, have spun the dry, inadvertently funny, official publication into a delightfully involving charmer.  (Copies of the actual pamphlet are available in the lobby.) Dan March, James Millard and Matt Sheahan, the actors, along with John Walton, the show’s director and co-author, treat the audience members as the American soldiers on English soil for the first time, totally ignorant of the British customs, language, sports, food, etc.   There’s a lot of winking going on to be sure as Lieutenant Schultz (Millard) and Colonel Atwood (March), Americans, and Major Gibbons (Sheahan), an Englishman, share with us everything we wanted to know about Britain but were afraid to ask. [more]

17 Border Crossings

April 24, 2019

"17 Border Crossings" is one of the most technically adroit Off-Broadway shows to be seen thanks to the split second cooperation between Phillips’ spare scenery design, David Todaro’s brilliantly inventive lighting and Robert Kaplowitz’ sound design and occasional music.  How Phillips uses the table alone is astonishing, literally creating multiple angles of observation, including an astonishing simulation of peering at the Passenger from up above. [more]

Martin Vidnovic: Broadway & Beyond

April 17, 2019

With the medley of “My Romance” and “My Funny Valentine,” he warmed up and came to a gentle boil with the two songs from "Baby": “At Night She Comes Home to Me” and “With You,” both by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire.  Even without knowing how the songs fit into this moving show, it was obvious from the change in Vidnovic’s features that he identified with both the meaning of the words and the meaning of these songs in his life. [more]

Twelfth Night (Duende Productions)

April 16, 2019

By stripping down the show and performing it in a white box theater space with minimal scenery and costumes, the eight actors, doubling up on parts, have fun interpreting Shakespeare’s luscious comedy of unrequited love and mistaken identity for each other, often bringing the viewers into the action (with mixed results).  This is probably the friendliest Twelfth Night I’ve ever seen since the musical Your Own Thing in the sixties. [more]

Charlie’s Waiting

April 10, 2019

Ludovica Villar-Hauser, the play’s keen eyed and eared director (and artistic director of Parity Productions the company responsible for this presentation), paces the fine actors for the ultimate tension, making the most of every innuendo. All three actors portray their characters with subtlety, their eyes revealing as much as their voices, carefully avoiding sliding into what might have been melodrama. [more]

Lori Belilove and The Isadora Duncan Dance Company: “March Madness”

April 3, 2019

Belilove, who has taught Sara Mearns of the New York City Ballet to perform some of these works, divided the concert into dances to Schubert, Chopin, Brahms and Scriabin, all original Duncan choreography staged by Belilove who has devoted her life to inspiring the public with Duncan’s repertoire The the evidence was in the beautiful dancing of her  troupe of six:  Becky Allen, Hayley Rose, Faith Kimberling, Emily D’Angelo, Nikki Poulos and Caroline Yamada. [more]

Tilt

April 3, 2019

The Experimental Theater Space at the Abrons, a not particularly large black box, was turned into a complex construction site by the "Tilt" creative staff, a truly unique interactive set.  Above the audience hung a crooked runway along which a ball was occasionally mysteriously rolled.  The ball eventually hit some metal gongs and went on to roll down a Rube Goldberg like contraption and onto the stage floor. [more]
1 2 3 11