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New York City Center

New York City Center, now in its 70th year, has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city since 1943. It was Manhattan’s first performing arts center, dedicated by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943 with a mission to make the best in music, theater and dance accessible to all audiences.
Today, City Center is home to many distinguished companies, including City Center’s Principal Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as Manhattan Theatre Club; a roster of renowned national and international visiting artists; and its own critically acclaimed and popular programs. http://www.nycitycenter.org

Parade

November 7, 2022

World events have inadvertently raised the significance of the New York City Center’s Annual Gala presentation of the brilliant new staging of the Jason Robert Brown/Alfred Uhry musical Parade which debuted over two decades ago.  Anti-Semitism and xenophobia have risen to epidemic levels.  This moving dramatization of actual events drives home the inevitable results of such unreasonable hatred. "Parade" is the gripping story of Leo Frank (Ben Platt), a Brooklyn Jew, who moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a better job.  He married a Southern Jew, Lucille (Micaela Diamond), whose southern version of Judaism confuses him. Frank was the manager of a pencil factory and was accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old white employee, Mary Phegan (Erin Rose Doyle), on Confederate Day, 1915. This almost operatic musical drama impeccably depicts how Phegan’s death led to a flowering of the anti-Semitism (twisted to the prosecution's benefit, horribly during Frank’s trial) and the KKK. [more]

Cost of Living

October 12, 2022

Perhaps because of its prestigious accolade, or just undeniable merit, "Cost of Living" is the first of Majok's heartfelt efforts to make the journey from off-Broadway to on-Broadway in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, a transition that, thanks to director Jo Bonney's returning and unflinching guidance, hasn't diminished any of the play's intimacy or daring. If anything, on Wilson Chin's Bergman-meets-Bayonne turntable set, gloomily lit in unrelenting twilight by Jeff Croiter, "Cost of Living" has become even more persuasive and poetic. Invaluably serving that dramatic growth are actors Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan, repeating their roles from the play's 2017 New York City Center premiere by MTC. [more]

New York City Center Fall for Dance 2022: Program 4

October 3, 2022

"Men of Kyiv," choreographed to high-spirited traditional folk music by Pavlo Virsky, pitted two groups of men—one wearing blue T-shirts, the other yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian national flag—against each other in a friendly, boisterous competition which began with a high-kicking entrance mazurka.  This was followed by one exhibition of prowess after another:  barrel turns, high cheerleader jumps, kazatskis, split leaps and unison chain dances.  It was almost as exhausting to watch as it was to dance and it left the audience totally in love with this good-natured dance troupe. [more]

Fall for Dance Festival 2022: Program 1

September 26, 2022

Perhaps the supreme dance festival in New York City, maybe even in the world, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance 2022 is celebrating its 19th year of presenting a panoply of domestic and international troupes. Initiated by outgoing City Center President Arlene Shuler, this celebration of the many facets of dance has brought some of the best and some of the mediocre representatives of world dance to many thousands of people who have been notoriously uncritical of what has been set before them.  And, rightly so.  This is an audience that has come to enjoy whatever entertainment is presented—and, at an affordable price. Program 1 of this year’s five-program edition was typical, presenting one local troupe, a Portuguese classical ballet couple and an all-male French/Algerian company which opened the program with in-your-face energy tempered by woefully mawkish “daddy was mean to me” back stories. [more]

The Life

April 12, 2022

The ubiquitous Billy Porter was given command of the most recent New York City Center Encores! presentation, the 1997 musical "The Life."  His direction and re-interpretation of this tawdry portrait of 42nd Street left a great deal to be desired, but strong performances by the leading players made vivid impressions. Originally written by the estimable Cy Coleman (music/book), Ira Gasman (lyrics/book) and David Newman (book), "The Life" is set in the 1980’s as seen from the point of view of a narrator, Old JoJo (Destan Owens, fine in a thankless, add-on role) who observed and commented on his past which included watching himself, Young JoJo (Mykal Kilgore, fine singer, but looking nothing like his counterpart) behave badly. The concert adaptation was by Porter himself. [more]

Artists at the Center: Tiler Peck

March 8, 2022

By far, the audience favorite was the world premiere “Time Spell,” an entertaining attempt at a hybrid of tap dancing (choreographed by Michelle Dorrance and Jillian Meyers) and ballet (choreographed by Peck) with the assistance of Byron Tittle.  The musicians Aaron Marcellus and Penelope Wendtlandt provided witty a cappella close harmony vocal accompaniment, even occasionally joining in the dancing. The alternating of tap dancing and ballet began slowly with the two dance forms not combining easily, but as the speed picked up so did the similarities until the ballet dancers were tapping in their toe shoes and the tappers were bourrée-ing in their tap shoes.  The large cast included Dorrance, Meyers, Peck, Lovette and Mejia. [more]

The Tap Dance Kid

February 4, 2022

Let’s start with the best:  The great Joshua Henry’s 11 o’clock number, “William’s Song,” a gut-wrenching revelatory song sung by the title character’s emotionally distant father.  Henry endows the number with the emotional punch of “And I Am Telling You” from "Dreamgirls."  Since Henry Krieger wrote the music to both songs the striking similarity is understandable.  Of course, Tom Eyen wrote the "Dreamgirls"’ vivid lyrics and librettro; Robert Lorick wrote the words for the pleasant, plot-moving score of "The Tap Dance Kid." "The Tap Dance Kid"—book by Charles Blackwell, based on the novel "Nobody’s Family Is Going to Change" by Louise Fitzhugh—is a simple domestic tale now reset in the 1950’s, gussied up with the brilliant tap choreography of Jared Grimes and the keen, vivifying direction of Kenny Leon.  But, even under Leon’s artful hand and Grimes’ beautifully performed numbers, "The Tap Dance Kid" remains a defiantly unimaginative story. [more]

Twyla Now

November 22, 2021

After a pause, there was the world premiere of "Second Duet." It was the most dramatic and emotional dance of the program. Wearing sneakers and casual sportswear, Cassandra Trenary and Aran Bell of American Ballet Theatre were the handsome couple whose tempestuous and turbulent relationship ranged from argumentative to violent to clinging and physically dependent. Tharp’s choreography included complicated partnering in which elements of the relationship were uncomfortable and disturbing, or sometimes amusing (as an example, Trenary stood solidly and dared Bell to just try and pick her up). Without an actual story line, the dance was emotionally charged, revealing and riveting. Trenary and Bell gorgeously performed the complex choreography. Looking more like members of a modern dance troupe than classical ballet dancers, they brought emotional depth as well as physical ability to this taxing piece of work. A modern music mix by Thomas Larcher and Aztec Camera played by the musicians Stephen Gosling (piano) and Gabriel Gabezas (cello) was sometimes as appropriately discordant as the relationship. [more]

New York City Center’s 2021 Fall for Dance Festival – Program 5

October 25, 2021

For something completely different, New York City Center commissioned and presented Ayodele Casel’s tap dance company for the world premiere of "Where We Dwell." A crowd-pleasing, often rousing production of tap-dancing choreography, it highlighted the various ways that tap dancing can entertain and enlighten. Amplified, it was astonishing to hear all the sounds created by tap shoes on the feet of extraordinarily gifted dancers. [more]

New York City Center’s 2021 Fall for Dance Festival: Programs 1 and 2

October 19, 2021

The final work on Program 1 was its finest.  A.I.M. By Kyle Abraham presented its director’s “Our Indigo: If We Were a Love Song,” a deeply moving paean to the darker meanings of love.  It was choreographed to Nina Simone’s glorious renditions of six songs in which she wrapped her moving contralto around the lyrics of “Don’t Explain,” “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” and “Little Girl Blue.” The opening moments found the seven-member cast gathered in a dramatically lit upstage corner—moody lighting designed by Dan Scully—bending and reaching, dispersing only to return to their sculptural starting image. [more]

Sutton Foster: “Bring Me to Light” 

April 30, 2021

Sutton Foster, one of the shining lights of New York City’s currently dimmed theater scene, glowed in Sutton Foster/Bring Me to Light.  Her voice and interpretations were the richest they have ever been.  Add to this her choice of repertoire and her talented guests and Bring Me to Light is a beacon of light in a dark year. As we see New York City Center’s backstage staff prepare for the performance, Foster performed the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Cockeyed Optimist” segueing to Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” and Kander and Ebb’s “Yes,” all upbeat, optimistic songs that should resonate with today’s pandemic-strained audiences. [more]

Nederlands Dans Theater 2020

March 12, 2020

If one were to come to conclusions about the Netherlands after seeing the three ballets presented by the Nederlands Dans Theater at the New York City Center, the Netherlands would clearly come off as a place of doom and gloom where relationships are expressed by tossing each other around or totally avoiding contact. This world-class dance troupe is always welcome, but one has to wonder who programmed this mini-season.  Of course, the company’s artistic director Paul Lightfoot who co-choreographed one of these works has to have been the driving force in putting this show together. [more]

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

February 5, 2020

“The legend returns” claimed the fliers and posters for "Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake"’s short season at the New York City Center.  That proclamation wasn’t far from the truth.  "Swan Lake" is definitely Bourne’s most famous and prolifically performed work from a repertory that includes "Edward Scissorhands," "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Red Shoes," all having made touchdowns in New York City with varying success.  Only his "Swan Lake" has caught the imagination of audiences throughout the world despite its daring take on a beloved classic. [more]

Evita

November 18, 2019

Solea Pfeiffer in a scene from New York City Center’s revival of “Evita” (Photo credit: Joan [more]

Houston Ballet: Fall 2019

October 29, 2019

The first piece on the program was the most successful of the three: Mark Morris’ “The Letter V”. (There was no mention of any specific meaning of the title.)  The classical music composition “Symphony No. 88 in G Major” by Joseph Haydn provided a substantial underpinning for the choreography because Morris had a beautifully uncanny way of making the movement seem to rise up from the music. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, conducted by David Briskin, provided the fine, live, performance. Morris, in fact, always insists on live music, and that added so much to the experience. [more]

Fall for Dance 2019: Program 5

October 16, 2019

Monica Bill Barnes totally changed the mood with her thoroughly delightful “The Running Show” which used physical contests as a metaphor for dance.  Barnes stood in the midst of sixteen students from Hunter College as her creative partner, Robbie Saenz de Viteri acted as a sports announcer, egging the large group on as they performed complicated patterns of finger snapping. Saenz de Viteri was the backbone of “The Running Show,” his narration, in turn witty, humorous and deeply thoughtful, drove the action which included more competitions; Barnes trying to beat her turning record; and an appearance of a young ballet dancer, Charlotte Anub.  She was clearly too young to dance on point, but she had a natural stage presence as she turned and performed basic pointe work, charming the audience.  “The Running Show” left a positive buzz in the audience, casting a quiet spell. [more]

Fall for Dance 2019: Program 4

October 14, 2019

The final work, “Unveiling” by Sonya Tayeh, director of Tayeh Dance, known now as the choreographer of the Broadway hit 'Moulin Rouge!," used a trio which appeared to be about a female (the American Ballet Theatre star, Stella Abrera) an interloper interfering with a gay relationship between Robbie Fairchild (formerly of the New York City Ballet and the star of An American in Paris on Broadway and the West End in London) and Gabe Stone Shayer. What made “Unveiling” the hit that it proved to be was the music performed live by the super-humanly talented Moses Sumney who stood on a small platform singing, wailing, thumping, rattling and otherwise issuing a spectrum of gorgeous sounds that supported Tayeh’s complicated portrait. [more]

Fall for Dance 2019: Program 3

October 9, 2019

The Mariinsky Ballet performed the U.S. premiere of “At the Wrong Time,” which had been choreographed by Alexander Sergeev and had its world premiere March 26, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Mariinsky Theatre.  The curtain rose to display a piano. A young man, Vladimir Rumyanstev, turned out to be the pianist who was waiting for a ballerina. Once she arrived, the music could begin. Eventually there were three ballerinas and three partners. The women wore pointe shoes and brightly colored dresses that were cleverly designed by Daria Pavlenko to appear simple but that allowed easy movement. Their partners wore dark shirts and pants. [more]

Bat Out of Hell-The Musical

August 9, 2019

The score is derived from the catalog of songwriter Jim Steinman’s "Bat Out of Hell" album trilogy whose songs were immortalized by Meat Loaf. Mr. Steinman’s  accomplishments as a composer and lyricist are monumental. As a librettist he is dreadful. His negligible scenario borrows heavily from "Peter Pan" (a doomed character is actually named Tink), the hoary stilted dialogue is reminiscent of Flash Gordon cliffhangers and it’s all often ill-matched with his iconic songs. Much of it is supposed to be funny.  It all makes "Bat Out of Hell-The Musical" a numbing dysfunctional slog. Very often, on-stage actions are projected on to a very large screen opposite them with characters followed around by videographers dressed in black. We get to watch schlock twice simultaneously. [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]

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]

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]

Lady in the Dark

May 9, 2019

MasterVoices performed a beautifully sung and played rendition of the legendary 1941 musical "Lady in The Dark" as part of New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season for three sold-out performances. Conducted and directed by MasterVoices’ artistic director Ted Sperling and starring Tony Award winner Victoria Clark as heroine Liza Elliott, the production offered a world premiere of a new adaptation of the Moss Hart book by Christopher Hart (the author’s son) and Kim Kowalke, and the complete critical edition of the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin score. While the musical portions were excellent, this concert version only made clear the strengths and weaknesses of this rarely revived musical play. [more]

Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance with David Hallberg

April 7, 2019

The evening consisted of a number of short dances in varying styles, but the final piece, “Valse Triste,” was the most successful. Osipova wore a simple, off-the-shoulder, blue dress and Hallberg wore a form-fitting unitard designed by Moritz Junge. “Valse Triste” by Jean Sibelius was the music for the plotless ballet. Choreography is an elusive art, but Alexei Ratmansky seems to have understood its secrets. Using the language and conventions of classical ballet, he designed this piece specifically for Osipova and Hallberg, and it showed off their exceptional talents and finely tuned partnership – and beautifully shared the joy of the dance with the audience. It’s the kind of short pas de deux that lends itself to gala events, so there’s little doubt that it will show up again. One wishes it were longer (it’s only six minutes). Or it would have been a wonderful treat to watch again if they had repeated it. [more]

I Married an Angel

March 28, 2019

A lot has been made of the parallels between the original 1938 production of "I Married an Angel" for which George Balanchine choreographed the dances for his soon-to-be wife, the glamorous Norwegian ballerina Vera Zorina and the New York City Center Encores! production for which its choreographer/director Joshua Bergasse staged the dances for his wife, the New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns. This is great publicity and drew the public, including myself, to this staging of one of Rodgers and Hart’s more charming musicals known mostly through a Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy film.  The original choreography is evidenced only via some silent film snippets taken of the original production. [more]

Nederlands Dans Theater 2

January 21, 2019

All four works—particularly the first three—had a certain offhanded similarity, a lack of formal movement ideas and construction, but all four choreographers are clearly students of the school of Jiři Kylián, the most famous director of the NDT whose incredibly musical, minutely detailed choreography has influenced many both in Europe and here in the United States.  Kylián’s works have a touching humanity to them, while these four works tended more to movement for its own sake and arbitrary expression of emotions. [more]

Song of the Mermaid

October 24, 2018

The K-Arts Dance Company from Korea presented two performances of "Song of the Mermaid," an entertaining full-length ballet choreographed by its artistic director, Sunhee Kim.  Song of the Mermaid was an extravagant ode to old-style ballet, a tribute to Petipa, if you will, based on the well-known tragic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of love gone wrong. [more]

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

July 28, 2018

This plotless, mostly sung-through exhibition conveys the tumultuous 20th century urban African-American experience through Micki Grant’s dazzling score for which she wrote both the music and lyrics. “Universe in Mourning,” “Harlem Streets,” “Ghetto Life” and “Billie Holiday Blues” are some of the titles. [more]

Songs for a New World

July 2, 2018

The unison of Jason Robert Brown’s accomplished score, Kate Whoriskey’s exciting direction and Rennie Harris’s vibrant choreography make this New York City Center Encores! Off-Center’s revival of his 1995 debut show "Songs for a New World," a dynamic theatrical experience. Mr. Brown’s surprise appearance at the piano to play a song in the second act was electrifying. [more]

Ivanov (State Theatre of Nations)

June 17, 2018

The chance to see Anton Chekhov’s first produced play, "Ivanov," not only in the original Russian (with English surtitles) but in modern dress proves to be a revelation. Staged by Russia’s State Theatre of Nations and as presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival, this is a rare opportunity to see this usually neglected Chekhov classic, seen in New York in English on only three occasions since it was first written: 1966 on Broadway with Sir John Gielgud, 1998 at Lincoln Center with Kevin Kline, and in 2012 at the Classic Stage Company with Ethan Hawke. Like the recent Australian version of Chekhov’s first written play, "Platonov" (renamed "The Present" in Andrew Upton’s update), Timofey Kulyabin’s production is not only in modern dress but updated to a drama set in our time. [more]

Martha Graham Dance Company: Spring Season 2018

April 23, 2018

"Ekstasis,” danced by PeiJu Chien-Pott, her hair loose, her costume a tight tube of form-fitting jersey (designed by Graham, herself), stood still as eerie clacking percussion and quiet woodwind music passed through her body, eventually causing her hips to jut from side to side and her bent arms to move in increasingly large circles.  “Ekstasis” is clearly a remnant from Graham’s days with the Denishawn company which specialized in soft-focused versions of ethnic dance forms from all over the world, using them for their decorative effect rather than expression of deep emotions.  Ms. Chien-Pott was terrific, unabashedly decorative, yet adding emotional depth through her personal style and commitment. [more]

Grand Hotel, The Musical

March 25, 2018

“We'll Take a Glass Together” is an exhilarating production number. Brandon Uranowitz’s animated youthfulness is up to the task of equaling the impact of Michael Jeter’s legendary turn in the original production as the dying bookkeeper enjoying a carefree spree.  Mr. Uranowitz’s limber movements are thrilling as he euphorically undulates up and down flanked by a large gold dance barre carried by the terrific ensemble. [more]
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