1/16/2017

Lyric Stage's "Virginia Woolf": Capping a Tough Night

Paula Plum, Dan Whelton, Erica Spyres & Steven Barkheimer in
 "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

In an initially pitch black theater, Lyric Stage Company presents Edward Albee's controversial 1962 play Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, beginning with the braying entrance of Martha (Paula Plum), then mimicking Bette Davis' iconic line, “what a dump!” that sets the tone for the battles to come. The play was considered shocking for its time (and still packs a wallop today). Though it won the Tony Award for Best Play and ran for 664 performances, it was denied the Pulitzer that year (no prize was awarded, despite the Pulitzer advisory board's expressed recommendation), both for its language and subject matter. The main title of the play is a reference to a song from the Disney 1933 classic cartoon short, Three Little Pigs: “Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”, which someone had sung earlier at a party that preceded the action of this play. Albee said he had seen the phrase in a bar scrawled on a wall. He also subtitled each of the three acts of this work: Act I is named “Fun and Games”, as a middle-aged couple entertain a young couple they have just met with a lengthy night cap; Act II is titled “Walpurgisnacht”, after the pagan feast on the eve of the feast day of St. Walpurga, eighth century German abbess, also known as May Day, when a rendezvous of witches occurs; Act III, “the Exorcism”, pretty much speaks for itself, as the alcohol-fueled long night's journey into day progresses.

Albee was to become known for his precision, even in his punctuation, and a talent for solitude in his own life. The art he liked best was what he called “tough”, that which had weight and value. In this play, he presents a married couple artfully disguising their own disappointments, as well as the ugliness and bitterness of their relationship, by sublimating in illusions. By questioning the difference between reality and deception, he virtually destroys the conventional concept of a stereotypical nuclear family of breadwinner, housewife and two obedient children. Those only familiar with the 1966 film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor will find some surprises here, especially in some back stories. In a small New England college town, New Carthage, history professor George (Steven Barkhimer) finds that his wife Martha, six years his junior, has been asked by her father, president of the college, to be nice to a newly arrived couple, handsome biology professor Nick (Dan Whelton) and his mousey wife Honey (Erica Spyres), so she has dutifully invited them back for that night cap.

Over the course of their facade-stripping encounter, we come to learn, among other points, about infertility and professional failure to live up to expectations, why Honey and Nick got married, why they don't have children, why Martha (married once before when very young and “revirginized”) is bent on seducing younger men, why George keeps his past so hidden, and ultimately why George and Martha have a secret lie that both have come to believe in. We also discover that both Martha and Honey come from families with dominating father figures. Albee famously told one actress on her opening night as Martha only one note: “remember one thing: she loved her father, passionately”. As is true of Albee plays in general, there is an enigma at the center, not to be revealed here, but more explicit in this play than in most of his others. We should consider how fortunate we are to be able to experience this brilliant work in such a near-perfect production, especially with (but not limited to) such an extraordinary ensemble.

Barkhimer is spot on, Whelton a perfect foil, and Spyres is as excellent as one might expect from her repertoire of prior roles (if way too attractive to be considered remotely mousey). But it's the plum role of Martha that makes or breaks a production of this work, and here we find real gold. Plum has been wonderful in so many other works, but has never been better than her larger-than-life role here. Just to hear her toss off such zingers as “I swear, if you existed, I'd divorce you” is chillingly reason enough to see this production, but all four principals are superbly Directed by Scott Edmiston, (though with some overlapping dialogue that seems not in keeping with Albee's rhythms). On the creative side, there is finely detailed Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland (providing a very lived-in, battle-worn home), Costume Design by Charles Shoonmaker (notably Plum's outfits that become increasingly revealing), Lighting Design by Karen Perlow (with the exception of two spotlighted soliloquies that briefly break the otherwise realistic tone of the play), and Sound Design by Dewey Dellay.

Albee once posed the question: who's afraid of living a life without false illusions? In his depiction of some of the fun and games played (as with “humiliate the host” and “get the guest”), there are landmines at virtually every turn. Even such relatively minor details as Honey's drunken reaction of peeling labels off a liquor bottle draws a barbed response from George. Yet Albee infuses the work with bitter humor, as he had once declared that “almost any art has humor... (and) most art has a sense of absurdity”. The playwright, whom we lost just last year, would undoubtedly be pleased with what is quite possibly the finest work from this estimable company in decades, and a bout (an apt word indeed) not soon forgotten. One word of advice: run, don't stagger, to get tickets to this breathtakingly wonderful work.

1/12/2017

Huntington's "A Doll House": Slam Dunk?

Andrea Syglowski & Sekou Laidlow in "A Doll's House"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)
 
A Doll's House, the cataclysmic work by Henrik Ibsen, generally recognized as the father of modern drama, is currently being presented by Huntington Theatre Company in a brand new Adaption by Bryony Lavery, in its first professional U. S. production. While many have proposed this as the first truly feminist play, it was described by Ibsen himself as not being so limited in scope, but more universal in intent, or as Director Melia Bensussen has put it: “we all struggle to be our genuine selves while meeting the needs of our society and our relationships” in the context of modern false morality. It remains the most produced Ibsen play throughout the theatrical world, as well as one of the most frequently mounted works, period. While some aspects of the play betray their age, the social struggles portrayed do not. With respect to this production, one's assessment will depend greatly on whether one is a purist or more open to a less traditional approach. Lavery has all of the cast speaking colloquially, and Bensussen has most of them delivering the lines at a fairly rapid pace, with natural overlapping dialogue. It makes for a radically different take, especially in its fluttering-bird depiction of Nora, that will fascinate some and distance others. Since the societal issues depicted by Ibsen no longer exist to the degree he portrays (in an era before marriage counseling and ritalin), this updated effort will have its champions and detractors, with few on the fence.

The story revolves around one simple, fateful, desperate act, involving both forgery and embezzlement, by Nora (Andrea Syglowski), in order to afford care for her husband, Torvald Helmer (Sekou Laidlow). Faced with public disclosure and a potentially ruined reputation, Nora submits to extortion by Torvald's colleague Krogstad (Nael Nacer). She seeks advice from Dr. Rank (Jeremy Webb), a friend to both Nora and Torvald, and discovers her childhood friend Christine Linde (Marinda Anderson) is also in financial difficulties and seeks a job with Torvald through Nora. The rest of the household includes Nanny Anne-Marie (Adrianne Krstansky), the Maid Helene (Lizzie Milanovich), and two Helmer children (alternating among Zoe Adams Martin, Kinsaed Damaine James, Elise Rose Walker, and Gavin Daniel Walker). Complications ensue when Torvald declares he is going to fire Krogstad, and Nora finds she has to present Torvald with the truth. His extremely negative reaction leads to her final act of independence.
 
 
The Set for Huntington Theatre Company's "A Doll's House"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson) 
 
Ibsen was a true prophet in his dissecting of the modern middle-class conception of marriage. Rolf Fjelde, in the forward to his famed 1965 English translation, quotes Ibsen when he succinctly described his role: “to be a poet is to see...but mark well, to see in such a way that what is seen is perceived by his audiences just as the poet saw it”. Fjelde goes on to state that this seeing is perceiving relationships in a social context, especially the extended self in the moral order of the cosmos, when Nora has her traumatic awakening and evolves into a remorseless and independent heroine. What has been seen as superficially photographic on the surface is actually a fusion of perspectives, with Ibsen as a critic of society and the varied intricacies of relationships. Ibsen's motivation was not to lecture, but to bring human beings into existence, daring each “to think, to feel, to question, to live”.

The play begins with Nora, but ends with Torvald, with his short-lived hope that she would reconsider her final act. Bensussen directs a stellar cast here, beginning and ending with the terrific Syglowski, with support from Laidlow, Nacer, Krstansky and the rest of the cast. The creative talents include unusual Scenic Design by James Noone, varied Costume Design by Michael Krass, Lighting Design by Dan Kotlowitz and Sound Design and Original Music by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen.

Just imagine the state of that thunderstruck premiere audience just before Christmas of 1879, unknowingly witnessing the birth of modern drama with the grand slam of that door. A few years ago a local production omitted that unsettling sound, rather like cutting the “Rosebud” scene out of Citizen Kane. That moment in this production is slightly altered (no spoiler here), enough to mute that most iconic ending of some of its potential power. Once again, if you're a more traditional theatergoer, this won't please. If you're more receptive to innovation, this is a total slam dunk.

1/10/2017

SpeakEasy's "Hand to God": Paranoid Puppetry Personified

Tyrone & Jason (Eliott Purcell) in "Hand to God"
(photo: Glen Perry Photography)

Hand to God, the play by Robert Askins now being performed at SpeakEasy Stage Company, comes along at a particularly handy time. As we as a nation are about to deal with perpetually paranoid personalities on a daily tweeted basis, we need good theater now more than ever. And Askins' comedy, first seen on Broadway in 2015 (after two Off-Broadway runs) when it was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Play, is a perfect antidote to the uncertainty to come. Make no mistake, this is comedy as dark as it comes, absolutely pulling no punches.

It's a deceptively simple premise, that the life of teenager Jason (Eliott Purcell) has been engulfed by the (literally) demonic antics of his dominant hand, Tyrone, a sock puppet who emerges as the flip side of Avenue Q. This has complications for those around him, including his mother Margery (Marianna Bessham), his bachelor Pastor Greg (Lewis D. Wheeler), and his peers, Timothy (David Ladani Sanchez) and Jessica (Josephine Elwood). While there is at its base a comforting humanity, this comedic riff has more diabolical ends in store. What transpires further on in the play is best left undisclosed, for as a critic unwilling to divulge spoilers, one's hands are tied.

Suffice it to say that whatever one might imagine as the worst of all possible worlds, the play evolves way worse than anticipated until its final encounter with Armageddon. This production is Directed by David R. Gammons, with Scenic Design by Christina Todesco, Lighting Design by Jeff Adelberg, Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will, Puppet Design by Jonathan Little and Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley (right down to our hero's Muppet jammies), this is the profound embodiment of our worst fears, that something wicked this way comes.

One can confidently state, hand to God, that this is among the funniest plays in many a year, and serves as fair warning that we, as supporters of the arts and the truth they convey, should remain vigilant against any who would attempt to suppress freedom of expression or, Tyrone forbid, any criticism or dissent. If the near future threatens to overwhelm you with its negative messages of political selfishness, self-absorption and misogyny, seek out the arts, such as Hamilton (despite the portrayal by those who haven't seen it that it's “overrated”), the Meryl Streep bravura performance as Florence Foster Jenkins (also ignorantly denigrated as "overrated"), or the finally feminist Disney crafts people who created the beautiful and powerful Moana. And, above all, have your sides split and your funny bones tickled by the ingeniously riotous laugh fest that is Hand to God.

Hands down, this play is a downright hilarious exercise of apocalyptic proportions. Who knew that hell on earth could be so much fun?


1/08/2017

BMOP's Stucky Release: American Musings

Boston Modern Orchestra Project's "American Muse"
(photo: BMOP)

Still continuing its impressive scheduled release of new music as well as of overlooked twentieth century works, Gil Rose's Boston Modern Orchestra Project has recently completed a new recording, Steven Stucky's American Muse, its fiftieth release under its eight-year-old “BMOP/sound” independent record label. This one includes the composer's American Muse as well as Rhapsodies and Concerto for Orchestra. Once again, this CD is more evidence of the significant role of Rose in providing access to important contemporary compositions as well as classics of the previous century. This time around, the music, while still eminently listenable, may prove a bit less approachable than their other recent releases and a bit of a challenge for the listener, but once again many will find meeting that challenge rewarding, as with virtually all of BMOP's undertakings.

Stucky (1949-2016), a Pulitzer Prize-winning contributor to the musical scene, had been associated with BMOP since its 2010 performance of American Muse. His untimely death just this past year makes this recording all the more poignant for the company, who wanted to pay tribute not just to his association with BMOP's efforts but to all of his musical education and championing of new music. Known particularly for the ability to meld classical elements with contemporary influences, he evidences in these works how much of a creative spirit he was. After an initial brief dramatic piece in Rhapsodies, his American Muse reveals a canny ability to choose and to synthesize into musical form the work of four American poets, namely Walt Whitman, e. e. cummings, A. R. Ammons and John Berryman. His vision, enabled in this recording by local treasure baritone (formerly tenor) Sanford Sylvan, was that any music should “sound beautiful”, not just cosmetically but in the way it speaks or means, with the “very sound itself...the heart of the matter”, emphasizing harmony's importance in clear and simple forms, with the central role being the idea of drama. His expressed wish was that his own music should always communicate “something deep and eloquent and human”. The sections of this piece range from the jazz-inspired American Lights, Seen from Off Abroad (Berryman) to the oft humorous yet somewhat ominous Buffalo Bill's (Ammons) to the Bartok-referenced Delaware Water Gap (cummings), and the obvious inspiration for the meditative I Hear America Singing from the Whitman poem.

The last of the choices in this album is the composer's Concerto for Orchestra, which, although not frequently performed since its 1986 premiere, hints at his unique take on the form, which was to find full fruition (and that Pulitzer Prize) in his 2005 work, Second Concerto for Orchestra. In its three movements, his first Concerto for Orchestra manages to display short ideas in contrast to one another, alternating strings with brass to great effect.

All three selections on this BMOP disc are conducted by Rose with his usual understanding and sensitivity for the genre. This is yet another worthy production by BMOP which, since its inception in 2008, has been an astonishing source for classics of the last century and contemporary classics-to-be.

Met Opera's "Nabucco": Flying on Golden Chords

The Met Opera Chorus in "Nabucco"
(photo: Met Opera)

Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi's most political opera, has become one of the Metropolitan Opera's most popular works in its repertoire, in large part due to the prominence given in this opera to the always-reliable Metropolitan Opera Chorus, under its Chorus Master Donald Palumbo. A piece first composed in 1841 in Italian, to a Libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the Old Testament Books of Jeremiah and Daniel, Nabucco, only Verdi's third opera, was a hit from its inception. The story concerns the capture of the Jews and their exile to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar (which occurred in 587 B.C.E.).

The opera consists of four acts, which the Met performs in two acts with one intermission. In Act I, Jerusalem: Nabucco (tenor Placido Domingo) is attacking Jerusalem where his daughter Fenena (mezzo Jamie Barton) is held hostage by Ismaele, the Hebrew King's nephew (tenor Russell Thomas). He had previously been freed by her from being held captive himself in Babylon. Her half-sister Abigaille (soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska), who also loves Ismaele, tells him she can free the Hebrews if he professes love for her, but he refuses. Nabucco then enters the city, confronted by Zaccaria (bass Dmitry Belosselskiy), the Voice of the Hebrew people, who threatens to kill Fenena, but Ismaele disarms him and returns her to her father. Nabucco orders the temple destroyed. In Act II, The Impious One: Abigaille, back in Babylon, learns that Nabucco is not her father and that she is instead descended from slaves, so she swears vengeance on him. The High Priest of Baal (bass Sava Vemic) offers to give her the throne and spread word that Nabucco has died, so the people proclaim her their ruler. As she is about to crown herself, Nabucco arrives declaring himself king as well as god, for which he is struck by a thunderbolt, leaving Abigaille triumphant.

In Act III, The Prophecy: Nabucco, half-mad, is tricked by Abigaille into condemning the Israelites to death, including Fenena who has converted to Judaism. The Israelites dream of their former homeland in the famous “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”, Va, pensiero, sull' ali dorate or Fly, Thought, on golden wings. This, the most famous piece in the opera, became a sort of national anthem and was spontaneously sung by crowds that massed on the occasion of Verdi's funeral, since it had become a symbol of Italy. (It was deservedly given an immediate encore at this typically fine performance, to an enthusiastic reception). In Act IV, Broken Idol : Nabucco prays (to the God of Israel, mind you) forgiveness, pledging to convert himself and the people of Babylonia. He stops the execution of the Hebrew slaves at the last minute and frees them, as Abigaille swallows poison. The Israelites and Babylonians unite in praise of the (Hebrew) God.

This performance was Conducted by James Levine, with the 2001 Production by Elijah Moshinsky, Stage Direction by J. Knighten Smit (with HD Direction by Barbara Willis Sweete), Set Design by John Napier, Costume Design by Andreane Neofitou and Lighting Design by Howard Harrison. The HD Broadcast Host was Eric Owens (who noted during an intermission interview with Domingo that this was the tenor's seventeenth Verdi role).

This production of Nabucco was excellently sung, notably by opera fan favorite Domingo and new discovery Barton (who impressed this critic in last summer's Glimmerglass Opera mounting of The Crucible. But the afternoon truly belonged to the Met Opera Chorus, who received a much-deserved standing ovation, that over-used event that seems to occur at the opening of a local supermarket. It was never more fitting than here, as, on a cold snowy afternoon, the music warmed the packed theater and braced the audience for the onslaught outside.

For those who may have missed this due to weather, there is an encore Weds. Jan.11 at 6:30pm. 

12/31/2016

SpeakEasy's "Scottsboro Boys": Retaking the Cake through Jan.22nd

The Cast of "Scottsboro Boys" returns through January 22nd
(photo: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots)

John Kander and the late Fred Ebb have provided a considerable number of musical theater productions that have often involved a good deal of risk. The musical Scottsboro Boys was controversial even in its title, echoing how a group of African American youth aged thirteen to nineteen were referenced as “boys”. Based on the true story of how these young men were unjustly jailed and (mis)treated, Scottsboro Boys opened on Broadway in 2010 and lasted just 49 performances, despite the reputation of Kander and Ebb (Music and Lyrics, their last collaboration), and David Thompson (Book), and despite being nominated for twelve Tony Awards including Best Musical (unfortunately for this show, in the same season as “Book of Mormon”). Its genius was to tell the story via a minstrel show, but this may also have led to its undoing. Intended as satire with minstrelsy songs, jokes, and dancing, and, yes, even blackface, it was picketed by people who never actually saw the show, and thus missed the point, namely the exposing of the evils of the system. Kander and Ebb once again revisited the Great Depression and the racial unrest of the thirties (as they had in “Steel Pier”, and, much before that, “Flora the Red Menace”), all held together in this show by an interlocutor as the host speaking directly to the audience. What resulted is a piece of musical theater like no other, in a class by itself, arguably Kander's and Ebbs' most inventive and unforgettable work.

Though the story is on record as part of this nation's checkered history, its anonymity requires a bit of a synopsis. (Fair warning: there are a few almost-spoilers). The lights come up on a lady (Shalaye Cavillo) carrying a cake box and waiting for a bus, which is late. She smells the cake, bringing back memories. The scene changes to a minstrel show in 1931, arranged by the Interlocutor (Russell Garrett), who introduces the nine youths, including Haywood Patterson (De'Lon Grant), who hop a freight train through Alabama. Just outside of Scottsboro, the men are pulled off the train, along with two white girls Victoria (Darrell Morris, Jr.) and Ruby (Isaiah Reynolds). Afraid they'll be arrested for prostitution, the girls accuse the men of rape, who are then brought to trial. Found guilty, they are condemned to death. The youngest, Eugene (Wakeem Jones) has nightmares about the electric chair. Just before the scheduled executions, word comes that the Supreme Court has overturned the verdicts and they are given a chance for another trial. One of the accused, young Roy (Sheldon Henry), teaches Haywood to write. And write he does, about their plight, making many in the North outraged. The Communist Party takes up their defense by hiring famous lawyer Samuel Leibowitz (Brandon G. Green) to take their case, raising some anti-Semitic issues. In her testimony, Ruby admits the men are innocent, but they are found guilty and sent back to prison. Haywood attempts unsuccessfully to escape to see his dying mother. After several additional trials, all with guilty verdicts, and after even Victoria recants, a deal is made to release four of the youngest boys, leaving the remaining five in custody. As one character blurts out, “you are guilty because of the way you look”. Haywood is promised parole if he admits guilt. He refuses and is sent back to jail where he dies twenty-one years later, having written their story. The Interlocutor announces the finale of the show but this time the Scottsboro Boys refuse to do the cakewalk, wondering if it has all been worth it and if people will remember.

Haywood was urged to “write it all down, the truth” even as he was asked “who's gonna learn from it?” . The lights come up on the lady who has been waiting, who then demonstrates the impact of their story on her and on history. The tagline for this production describes it as “a true story that changed history”. Rounding out the team are the characters of Ozie (Reynolds again), Andy (Darren Bunch), Willie (Taavon Gamble), Olen (Steven Martin) and Clarence Norris/Preacher (Aron Michael Ray). And then there are Mr. Bones (Maurice Emmanuel Parent) and Mr. Tambo (Green again), about whom more later.

What initially grabs one is the quality and variety of the score, encompassing fast ragtime to slow rag to folk song and of course cakewalk. There are echoes of Mr. Cellophane (from Chicago) in the plaintive Nothin' and Ruby's song Never too Late (to atone) as well as You Can't Do Me and Southern Days, their a cappela revision of a long-revered plantation song. Some of the subjects in the show's numbers, like parts of the book, are discomforting and macabre (“Daddy hangin' from a tree”, the electric chair or burning crosses), intentionally so. Yet there are also hearfelt songs like the bittersweet Go Back Home, the best number in the show, and one of the finest in the Kander and Ebbs pantheon. The score and book are deceptively upbeat in the initial minstrel show set-up, but they soon turn darker and more daring. The structure subliminally follows that of traditional minstrelsy: an introductory song-and-dance routine, then what was called the “olio” (a series of entertaining bits) and the “afterpiece” in the form of an extended skit or burlesque. But, as with their other serious works, especially Cabaret and Chicago, the message is as vital as the medium.

This is a brilliant piece of theater both in conception and (excuse the expression) execution. Wonderfully directed by the company's Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault, with fine
Musical Direction by Matthew Stern, and rousing Choreography by Ilyse Robbins, with very effective Scenic Design by Eric Levenson, Costume Design by Miranda Kau Giurleo, Lighting Design by Daisy Long and Sound Design by Donald Remedios, it's a creative marvel. But its true glory is in the performances. Parent and Green, in historically stereotypical roles as Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, excel in other multiple roles, as does Reynolds as Ozie and especially as Ruby. Grant is mesmerizing as the central figure of the case (though artistic license is at work here, as the real Haywood was focused on because he was the “ugliest” of the group, certainly not an adjective anyone would ever apply to Grant). But then, every member of the cast is a stunner, each with great vocal and acting chops and (you should also excuse this expression) rhythm.

SpeakEasy Stage Company, and Daigneault in particular, have always been known for their expert hand with musical theater. This may not be the best-known work by Kander and Ebb, but it deserves to be seen by any serious theater buff. With its sardonic black comedy (one final expression you should excuse), awe-inspiring dancing and all-around transcendence, it's the finest work thus far this season. “The truth: who's gonna learn from it?” Guess.

12/19/2016

Fathom Events' "Nutcracker": Life Is but a Dream

The Bolshoi's "Nutcracker"
(photo: Bolshoi Ballet)

One of the highlights of any holiday season is the beloved ballet The Nutcracker, featuring the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. It was premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg on this date, December 18, and never more exquisitely performed than by Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet (which was founded in 1776). Their 2014 production of the work was HD broadcast in a movie theater near you this past weekend. Featuring Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, as Directed by Vincent Bataillon with Music Direction by Pavel Klonichev leading the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, the broadcast was hosted by the company's spokeswoman Katya Novikova who interviewed one of the principals, Denis Rodkin, between acts.

As most ballet buffs will already know, the story, based on E.T.A. Hoffman's tale, begins in Act I on Christmas Eve, as young Maria (Anna Nikulina) is given a present by her godfather Drosselmeyer (Andrei Merkuriev) in the form of a nutcracker. At midnight, after all of the celebrations have ended, all the toys come to life, including the Nutcracker, now a handsome young Prince (Rodkin). He and his corps of tin soldiers come to the rescue of Maria, who is threatened by the Army of the Mouse King (Vitaly Biktimirov).

Act II continues after the defeat of the Mouse King. The Nutcracker turned Prince whisks Maria away in a magic boat to the Land of Sweets. Maria and her Prince are overwhelmed with sheer happiness, having reached the kingdom of their dreams. Joyous celebrations thus may now begin, but it begins to become clear that this kingdom of their dreams is literally that, all a mere dream. (One could be forgiven for an occasional thoughtful Disney-induced digression in the direction of ostriches and hippopotami).

This production, hailed as a “bonbon” for the holiday season, was full of superior dancing by the principals as well as the entire Bolshoi Corps de Ballet, and a visual treat thanks to the imagination behind the creative elements (notably the clever and colorful sets and costumes) and the faultless performances. It's no wonder that this has become a staple for holiday viewing, well worth experiencing for the first time or on a return visit.



Presented Sunday Dec.18th at Regal Cinemas in Kingston, MA and a theater near you.