The famous fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi has, for years, also directed theatrical productions and has even developed a large following for his cabaret appearances. He has now put his droll, slightly campy stamp on Sergei Prokofiev’s delightful children’s piece Peter & the Wolf, the classic 1936 work which was the composer’s way of teaching children the instruments of the orchestra, as part of Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum.
Mizrahi conceived, directed, costumed and narrated this Peter & the Wolf, wisely moving the folktale from rural Russia to New York’s Central Park, making the story more accessible to his target audience: New York City kids and their parents. Choreographer John Heginbotham, totally on the same witty wavelength as Mizrahi, provided movement motifs for each character in this perfectly cast ensemble.
Mizrahi began by introducing the instrumentalists by the character they represented. Peter’s theme was played by the strings; his Grandfather, the bassoon; the Duck, the oboe; the Cat, the clarinet; the Hunter, the timpani; the Wolf, the French horn; and the Bird, the flute. All the musicians were members of Ensemble Signal and were conducted with style by Oliver Hagen.
The set evoked a dreamy Central Park with a silhouette of Manhattan’s celebrated skyline in the background. A large tree, downstage left, provided a bough on which sat the Bird (young Maxfield Haynes, his arms covered in blue cloth wings, a dancer with birdlike grace on point). The orchestra pit, lined with reflective material was the pond from which the Duck (Marjorie Folkman, properly ditzy, all in orange, including orange flippers).
As Mizrahi tried to tell the story of Peter (a spirited Macy Sullivan, skillfully playing the very naughty boy), his eccentric Grandfather (the beloved dancer/actor Gus Solomons, Jr. doing a crackerjack job) kept wandering onstage before his cue.
Finally, Mizrahi was able to relate the tale of Peter escaping the comfort of Grandfather’s house, leaving the gate open so that the Duck could escape and take a swim in the pond. The Duck and the Bird exchanged insults while stalked by the Cat (Kristen Foote, sinuous and wily). The Wolf (a sexy Daniel Pettrow), as warned by Grandfather, manages to eat the poor Duck before being shot by the Hunter (Derrick Arthur, hilariously bedecked in a Boy Scout uniform). The Duck got the last word from inside the tummy of the Wolf.
Mizrahi’s fun costumes, from the furry bits and pieces for the Wolf to the orange flippers for the Duck to the oddly fitting pants for Grandfather were brilliant in style, color and character.
Heginbotham’s choreographic contribution was as witty as Mizrahi’s, his steps and gestures adding much to the proceedings. Michael Chybowski’s lighting was both subtle and sharp.
This was a children’s tale with just enough New York sophistication to keep the parents in attendance as fascinated as their children. Although Peter & the Wolf isn’t a holiday-themed work, it certainly provided high class entertainment for adults and children alike.
Peter & the Wolf (through December 15, 2019)
Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-423-3575 or visit http://www.worksandprocess.org
Running time: 40 minutes without an intermission