writers on dancing


New Cast in "Double Feature"

"Double Feature"
New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
February 22, 2005

By Leigh Witchel
copyright ©2005 by Leigh Witchel

“The Blue Necklace”, the first half of Susan Stroman’s “Double Feature” got several cast changes this week, including Sofiane Sylve in the role of Dorothy Brooks and Janie Taylor as Mabel, a role originally created on her. The coupling of the two was slightly odd; it might have made more sense to pair Taylor with Maria Kowroski and Sylve with Ashley Bouder. In both cases not only is there a better physical resemblance, there’s more similarity in dance style. Sylve, as usual, danced with technical brilliance, but she’s never looked more foreign than in this most American of theatrical forms. She isn’t a dancer with artifice but she doesn’t have the wide-eyed, gee-whiz guilelessness of musical comedy. Playing Billy Randolph, the Prince Charming of Hollywood, Damian Woetzel looks so natural in a Broadway role you almost wish he’d go to Broadway and raise the standards there—the problem is that his technique would probably get debilitated rather than Broadway’s standards getting raised.

Taylor looks great in the role she was meant to dance, but couldn’t because of injury. Mabel is a spunky variant of Cinderella, but Taylor gives an air of vulnerability to her even as she sails through the air. She has a glow of happiness she’s sometimes missing and it’s lovely to see. Tara Sorine, the School of American Ballet student who plays the 10 year-old Mabel, had a growth spurt in the past year but this worked with casting. Last year, she was short enough to pair well with Bouder; this year her legginess as well as her wonderful jump makes her believable as a younger Taylor. Also making his debut was Kyle Froman as a sympathetic Mr. Griffith.

“Makin’ Whoopee” has had the same cast since its premiere; Tom Gold as a sad sack suitor and Alexandra Ansanelli as the sweetest girl in town who is at the end of her tether waiting for the ring. They gave a charming performance aided by the supporting cast, Seth Orza, Albert Evans and Arch Higgins as business partners and attorneys, a group of potential mates in Central Park (including Carla Körbes as the most va-va-voom of vamps) and a pursuing pack of Bridezillas of both sexes.

“Double Feature” doesn’t add up to much as a ballet; Stroman’s instincts for musical comedy make her more attuned to effects than design. Her ballet vocabulary is elementary and repetitive; the best moments in both works, such as the brides crossing and re-crossing the stage in pursuit of Gold, are theatrical effects rather than dance ones. Stroman doesn’t seem curious about ballet vocabulary, but neither is she obsessed with distorting it. She’s a pro, and that means a swiftly paced, coherent evening where the audience goes home happy if not challenged. She’s also given dancers like Gold and Kyra Nichols (as the evil foster mother in “The Blue Necklace”) fat, juicy late career roles that make them look great. In the case of Nichols, Stroman even extended her range. “George Balanchine has done an ace job on the terp angle”—that was Variety’s praise for Balanchine’s work on Broadway. “Double Feature” is an ace job in several ways, but it has to settle for a lesser grade on the terp angle.

Volume 3, No. 9
February 28, 2005

copyright 2005© Leigh Witchel


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