Monthly Archives: July 2007


I discovered a great website a few months ago called Broadwaysecrets. It’s modeled after the website, PostSecret, but specifically for Broadway material. It’s an entertaining website to look through

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when I’m waiting for my immunoprecipitation or Western blot at lab. There are a ton of complaints about crazy Wicked fangirls and Rentheads, and smart remarks back, but some of them are really good, and really funny.

Some of my favorites:

I posted one in this week. Try to guess which one it is. :)

After the Quake, The Big Voice

Aiko Nakasone, Hanson Tse, Keong Sim and Andrew Pang

Photos of Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake has been posted, coming soon to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and currently playing at the La Jolla Playhouse. The staging looks really interesting – futuristic, minimalistic, hypnotic – my curiosity about this play is definitely piqued.

Currently playing in San Francisco at the New Conservatory Theatre Center is the successful Off-Broadway show “The Big Voice: God or Merman?”with its original (all two) cast members. What really caught my attention was the great NY Times review of the original off-Broadway show.

Our contemporary embrace of the memoir is a longing for the true adventures of life. The trick is to make memory art without losing the awkwardness that proves authenticity. Here art is achieved with light hands, and the result is a triumphant and very touching song of praise to everyday love and the funky glories of the show business life.

Click here for more information.

Jersey Boys: Chicago Cast at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco

Steve Gouveia, Jarrod Spector, Drew Gehling and Jeremy Kushnier

Warning: this is probably not going to be a typical review. I also have been putting off writing about the Chicago cast, currently playing at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, for the big reason that I know that I am completely biased. I have loved and enjoyed the Sherry cast, which was the first cast that I saw perform Jersey Boys, and getting to know them I know is coloring my perception. With this disclaimer, here it goes.

First off, it is well known that the show itself is a hit in every sense of the word. Meticulously and smartly written to a tee, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s writing ensures that audiences will be entertained, even if you didn’t grow up listening to the Four Seasons, such as myself. In addition to the writing, the energy packed music and dancing adds excitement that equals a live rock concert and makes Jersey Boys an exceptionally singular theatrical experience.

Jarrod Spector leads this talented cast playing Frankie Valli. His pitch perfect singing is always a joy to experience (especially for audiences with perfect pitch! It’s a rare but grateful experience), and I love when he plays with the rhythms in “Moody’s Mood for Love”. It adds so much to the musicality of a simple melody, and nobody sings that song as easily as he does. I am also happy to report that his intensity in his acting in the more dramatic scenes gets better and better – at initial glance a few months ago, he seemed too nice of a guy to play Frankie Valli. But there was a very brief moment – the moment when Frankie Valli grabs Lorraine’s hand as she’s leaving and begs desperately, “Go tomorrow” – that was absolutely heartbreaking, and spoke volumes about the acting involved in this scene.

The cast is rounded out by Jeremy Kushnier as Tommy DeVito, Drew Gehling as Bob Gaudio, and Michael Ingersoll as Nick Massi. My favorite is Michael Ingersoll, previously of the Sherry cast; he is excellent and hilarious and heartbreaking and touching as the guy who’s always overlooked. He makes the role bigger than some of the other Nick Massi’s that I’ve seen. Drew Gehling gives Bob Gaudio a charming and awkward lanky quality, while Jeremy Kushnier plays the intense bad boy Tommy Devito with flashes of self-deprecating humor.

The Jersey girls deserve a few words as well, which I often feel are the hardest working members in the cast, as well as the most overlooked. Jenny Lee Ramos is fantastic as Mary Delgado. Jennifer Naimo, who plays the same role on Broadway, has said good things about her, and when I watch Ramos, I can’t help feeling like this is what the original writers had meant the role of Mary Delgado to be – a tough cookie with a broken heart. She is also a beautiful singer as well, and I can picture her playing Mary Delgado on Broadway someday. Lauren Marshall also shines and simmers as Lorraine, Frankie Valli’s girlfriend.

Supporting cast also includes Craig Laurie, who plays the hilarious Bob Crewe. He is not only in the moment at every moment he is onstage, but genuinely seems to be having a great time. He also is very funny as the passenger in the car shooting scene, one of my favorite scenes in the show. His acting is so good that most of the audience probably doesn’t know that he is the same actor who plays Bob Crewe.

One thing that I’ve also enjoyed with this cast is getting to see the talent of the swings. Swings are actors that are hired to understudy often multiple roles, and have to face the difficulty of memorizing very different roles, and not getting to perform the role everyday and often very rarely (which can hinder memorization and character development). The swing that I have experienced most is John Hickman – I have seen him play three very different roles (Nick Massi, Gyp DeCarlo the mob boss, and Billy Dixon), and he brings something different to every role. Every time, I have been impressed with the breadth and specificity of his acting ability. He seems very comfortable in each role that I’ve seen him play, which must be hard to do as a swing. I’ve seen John Michael Coppola perform once as Joe Pesci, and thought he absolutely nailed it. The role of Joe Pesci is a finicky role, because it has to skirt the line of screwball humor, as well as fighting the urge to be too over-the-top (which Broadway performs very well, possibly in order to not offend the real Joe Pesci?). Coppola did it very well.

Another person worth mentioning: John Michael Dias, who plays the Frankie Valli twice a week. I have never had the desire to see an alternate in general, but Dias has changed that. For the lack of better wording, I love his portrayal of Frankie. His Frankie is very comfortable and natural, and his singing divine. I got chills the first time I heard his “Moody’s Mood for Love”, and the melody in “Fallen Angel” soars and takes flight – it’s so unique, which must be hard to do being the fifth Frankie (or so), and very moving.

I know that this review sounds like a big lovefest, but I’ve tried to be specific in my descriptions, and tried to leave out the negativity (after all, this isn’t a real review that you would read in a newspaper.) In all, Chicago is in for a treat when this cast moves there in October.

This cast plays at the Curran Theatre until September 30. Click here for more info.

San Francisco Ballet: 75th Anniversary Season

San Francisco Ballet marketing called today for the first time for this season – it signals that they’re getting ready for another great year! And what a season it is – they are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, and really pulling out all the stops. I knew that it was different this year when I got a fancy glossy book (not a pamphlet, a book) in the mail, filled with beautiful artsy full page photos. On top of a great season, these are the special “extras” that are occurring this year:

  • The presentation of a New Works Festival: 10 world renowned choreographers are creating 10 new works for the company. These famous names include Mark Morris, Christopher Wheeldon, Paul Taylor, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, and Yuri Possohkov to name a few.
  • An International Salute to San Francisco Ballet: it’s a program performed by world renowned ballet companies to pay tribute to the importance that is SF Ballet (hehe, that is my wording, but it’s an interesting concept). NYCB will be here to perform a pas de deux (I believe) from Duo Concertant, the National Ballet of Canada and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo will be dancing as well.
  • The year will end with an American Tour – touring four American cities (Chicago, New York, Orange County, and Washington D.C.)
  • A huge hiring spree.

And that is on top of a great season – every single program is really strong, which is hard pressed to find in ANY ballet company, and definitely has not been true for SF Ballet every year. But this year is definitely different, and the season shows it. I’ll highlight the stuff I’m really excited about.

  • Program 1: Balanchine’s “Diamonds”. I’m excited to see Diamonds, especially after having seen the Paris Opera Ballet’s glittering rendition that aired on PBS previously.
  • Program 2: Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15, Morris’ Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, and resident choreographer Possohkov’s Firebird: I saw Firebird earlier this year, and liked it. It’s a piece that’s a bit cartoonish, and the part for the lead female, the Firebird, isn’t flashy and definitely didn’t make full use of Yuan Yuan Tan’s amazing extensions, but it was a great debut for Possohkov as resident choreographer. This program also includes my two favorite choreographers, Balanchine and Morris.
  • GISELLE: This program warrants all caps and bold lettering. One of my favorite ballets of all time (it’s weird, it’s this ballet and Morris’ Sylvia, which is on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, but there it is). I was trying to think of good Giselles in the SF Ballet though, and sort of came up blank. Yuan Yuan Tan is an obvious great choice, but I would pay to see her just stand on stage. It seems like Tina LeBlanc has danced it in the past, but I can see her holding back a tad. I would love to see Sarah Van Patten dance Giselle, especially with her recent promotion to principal – she is the most feminine dancer, and might make a great Giselle. Possibly Elizabeth Miner as well? I can see Vanessa Zahorian being a good First Act Giselle, but the second act really requires such emotional depth and grace and being able to expression passion while being so restrained. She seems too “sunny” – technically she will fly through the piece, but for me, Giselle is so much more than that. A good nontraditional casting of Giselle might be Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun. She’d be beautiful to watch. I’m not worried about finding good Albrechts, there are so many good male dancers in the company who could play him fantastically (Vilanoba, Helimets, Nedvigin, Boada, Molat, the Martin brothers).
  • Program 4: Robbins’ Fancy Free. I missed it this year, and I’m not going to miss it again.
  • Program 5: Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance). Wheeldon staged it at the SF Ballet this year. It got ambivalent reviews in the NY Times, but I got wildly curious after reading Wheeldon’s experiences in staging it at SF Ballet, and after reading the experiences of one of the leads. The program notes says, “It’s [corps dancer, Dana] Genshaft’s first opportunity to carry a ballet as the sole lead woman, and she says she loves the role. “I don’t think I’ve ever danced anything as perfect for a ballerina. It’s very beautiful, and lots of fun.” Paired with Principal Dancer Ruben Martin, Genshaft finds the ballet emotionally powerful. “The first time I had to stare up at him lovingly, I actually cried,” she says. “You feel very vulnerable. You become the part, and to be that vulnerable can be scary.” She describes the characters’ connection, after her first few tentative glances in response to his steady gaze, as having “a stillness to it, even though there are big lifts. After a while the eyes never leave him.””

I can not wait, if you couldn’t tell already. :) Why all this excitement about SF Ballet, you ask? Well I’ve been going to ballets at the gorgeous War Memorial Opera House since I started going to school in the South Bay, and basically every year since. But even before then, when I was young, I got into the San Francisco Ballet School. My mom wouldn’t let me go because she thought it would interfere with my academic future, but it’s always something I’ll always regret. I definitely feel like it’s the life I could have had. (Could you think of any more polar opposites – ballet… and medicine??)

Check out the special website dedicated to this special anniversary season, here. Be sure to check out the videos.

The official website for the 75th anniversary season here.

Also remember the SF Ballet is performing at Stern Grove for a free outdoor concert! It’s a rare chance to see them dance off-season.

ABT Sleeping Beauty Part II: 7/22/07, Lane & Cornejo


The wonderful Herman Cornejo and Sarah Lane


Blinded by the light, the five fairies: (l to r) Stella Abrera, Renata Pavam, Adrienne Schulte, Melanie Hamrick, and Jacqueline Reyes


Curtain call: Maria Ricetto as Lilac Fairy, Hee Seo as Princess Florine with the Bluebird, Sascha Radetsky

A last minute decision led me to attend the closing performance of ABT’s Sleeping Beauty at OCPAC., for the second time this week. I moved to an empty seat in the front row during intermission, so I got a real close up of the action. I heard Kristi Boone whisper “sorry!” to Kenneth Easter, as Puss in Boots when she accidentally kicked him. It’s amazing what you can hear from the front row….it’s so close!

First of all, I wanted the rare chance to see Herman Cornejo (a highly undervalued principal dancer at abt, imo) in a Principal role as the Prince, rather than the “best friend” or “bad guy” who gets to do high jumps. So what if he’s a bit on the short side? I think diversity is good; talent is what should matter most. Cornejo tends to only be the Prince in ballets on tour, so I feel very lucky to have seen him today. (I still dream about the day I will see him as Romeo; I think he’d be fantabulous) He did not disappoint. His jumps were breathtaking, and his acting was tender and sincere towards Lane. It was great.

Before I start reviewing Sarah Lane as Aurora; I have to say a little vignette that happened at the pre-show talk before the performance. I caught the last few minutes during the Q&A; some guy asked why we were seeing Sarah Lane perform as Aurora, and not Julie Kent, Paloma, or Gillian Murphy…(what a rude question!) (Lane is still listed as a corps in the program…although she has recently been promote to soloist). I thought that was so strange; if you didn’t want to see Lane, you should check the casting online ahead of time. The speaker graciously said that we were lucky to see her in the beginning of her career, and ended it like that.

Sarah Lane as Aurora: I saw her as Princess Florine previously, and was not a fan of the Sarah Lane club. However, after today…I am! I will eat my words. Just recently promoted to soloist…it’s well deserved. I can see why I didn’t recognize her artistry as Princess Florine; the solo is way too short, and she doesn’t have the flashy technique to impress in such a short amount of time. Sarah’s Aurora is not perfect, but it’s very human…the most emotional Aurora I’d seen out of the three ABT SB’s I’ve seen (Veronika Part, Gillian Murphy and Sarah Lane). Technique wise, Sarah Lane is not as “flashy” as Gillian…she does not have mile high extensions, 6 o’clock penchees, perfect port de bras, or super arched feet. For some reason though; when she dances, she looks like someone who is truly happy to be on stage, and I don’t know what it is, but as an audience member, I really believe she is Aurora. I don’t know quite how I should describe it…for example, in Act II, when she is doing the Rose Adagio at her birthday party…she looked a bit dazed at all the attention focused on her by her friends and suitors (and perhaps the audience?) and amazed but very bouncy and happy … she truly was a 16 year old, with her tutu looking slightly too large for her, as if her mother wanted her to grow into it in a year. She looked adorable; like the eager, happy teenager who wants to please her parents by picking a suitor. During the dream sequences, she was delicate, winsome, but strong, with a longing portrayed beautifully. All I can say is that her performance wasn’t perfect, (perhaps Gillian’s performance was too perfect that it lacked emotion?) but full of heart. Truly truly moving. Her balances were very long as well, very impressive…during the Rose Adagio, her balances looked really precarious (slight wobbling of the leg in attitude) so it was more breathtaking when she held them forever.

Other standouts in the cast were Renata Pavam as the Fairy of Joy: her role is so spastic! but she did it in such a cheery, charming way. the audience loved it.

Hee Seo as Princess Florine: (Side question: If Sascha is the Bluebird, why is Princess Florine presented in a birdcage? Are there underlying socio-gender implications here?) Ok, as a fellow Korean, I think it’s great to see one at ABT. It’s amazing how the level of dance is rising in Korea…and I really enjoyed seeing her finally in a meaty dance-y role. Exquisite dancer, she had a slight fumble (I doubt anyone noticed; I heard her whisper “oops” to Sascha…seriously, front row gets to experience all the fun), but jumped right back into the action.

As a character role, Maria Bystrova stood out to me with her portrayal of Aurora’s mother, the queen. Again, an unconventional dancer (she’s very tall), she was the perfect balance of motherly love, mercy, regal strength, and loving spouse to Victor Barbee’s portrayal of the King. It’s such an understated performance, you would miss it if you weren’t looking….but very impressive. It’s always that discussion; should dancers be required to act? In Maria’s case, it really helps her characterization of the role.

And of course, I must mention that today was the final performance of Adrienne Schulte, who will be leaving ABT to move onto the ballet scene in London. Maria Riccetto handed Adrienne a rose from her bouquet during the curtain call; we could tell Adrienne was definitely teary-eyed. We will definitely miss her Fairy roles in Sleeping Beauty, fun Bianca in Othello…and these crazy blog posts that are so entertaining. Wish her best of luck across the pond! Would she consider staying at ABT if we petitioned?!?!??

Costumes: I hate them. Sorry….the costumes for the suitors are especially hideous. When will expel the racial stereotypes and characterize ballet roles as “foreign”, with outlandish, garish costumes? The Scottish one is particularly hideous; who wears fluorescent plaid…complete with a green beret and a red pom pom, and a horrendous long haired red bob wig?

I have lots of other thoughts…but too tired to organize them now. Oh! I had the pleasure of meeting Art from Artsplace at the performance today…he has seriously seen Sleeping Beauty 7 times this week…twice yesterday. Wow! Can’t wait for his detailed reviews. :) We met and chatted with ABT dancers afterwards, at an outdoor “dance party” that OCPAC hosted for dancers and fans.

I found out some news: Next year March, in Los Angeles, ABT will be performing Swan Lake (yay!…although I do hope I am working somewhere not in Los Angeles, let’s say…SF!). Upcoming Met Season next year (Although I will not be there): Don Q (I still need to see this live), Corsaire, and Giselle. More Sleeping Beauty. But no Manon. ABT will be performing for rich donors at a private home in BelAir in the next few days…wow, how much does it cost to have ABT perform in your backyard??? I also got to say “hello” to Jackie; whom I met a few days ago after Othello in Los Angeles. She will be working on a Twyla Tharp project soon; how exciting!!



San Francisco Symphony: Classical Romance

And my thoughts on themed programming

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San Francisco Symphony and reaching out to younger/newer audiences in the “dying art” of classical music: James Gaffigan and Gabriela Martinez : Jen asked what the symphony is doing to make classical music more relevant to younger generations

This past Wednesday, I got a real treat when I went to see the San Francisco Symphony play as a part of their Summer in the City series, with a program called “Classical Romance”. Conducted by the exuberant James Gaffigan, the SFS presented a program of “romantic” pieces. And no, not Romantic as in the Romantic period of classical music, but “romantic” in the lovey-dovey conversational sense.

I understand this sort of “themed” programming especially for a summer series, in which James Gaffigan admits has a completely different audience than during the regular season (it’s more of a “Hollywood Bowl” crowd). For what it was trying to accomplish, I felt like this program met its goal and the night was an absolute success. This Summer in the City series is really trying to market to newcomers to classical music – trying to reel the audiences in with “themes” that newcomers will understand, with pieces that obviously demonstrate this theme, not only literally (using pieces with stories such as Romeo and Juliet and Don Juan) but also musically - music filled with passion, angst, soaring ecstasy, etc. The only thing is, this type of programming is harder for hard-core regular season goers to swallow, and seems a bit gimmicky.

I know that this sort of themed programming allows newcomers to come with an idea of what to expect, and so they feel that there’s something familiar and recognizable. However, if you really want to attract new audiences, wouldn’t you pick really great pieces that showcase the strengths of the symphony? I often feel like themed programming compromises high quality pieces to pick pieces that forcibly fits a random theme.

SFS is not the first to succumb to themed programming – New York City Ballet has also started themed programming this year. NYCB’s Peter Martins admits this change in programming is to be “relevant to today’s market… to describe an evening in a much better fashion than we had in the past”. This article also admits that this new marketing technique may alienate fans. So Peter Martins is changing the programming, so he can be able to describe a program better?? That seems a bad trade off in compromising pieces that truly showcase the diversity and strengths of a company, just so they can explain the evening better to non-balletgoers.

I really do understand why this sort of programming occurs, but it’s a bit disappointing to a hard-core ballet and classical music lover. It’d be interesting to see how effective this themed programming is working in reaching out to new audiences.

My first impression of the SF Symphony: I love the summer dress code! This is my first time watching the SFS Summer in the City series, and loved the crisp look of the white coat jackets, which not only gave off a summery feel but also a nostalgic air of old fashioned ice cream makers. Ok maybe that was a little off the wall, but I loved it nonetheless.

First off, the SF Symphony is in absolute stellar condition. Their sound and their unity completely had me mesmerized for the majority of the night. My criticisms of that night had nothing to do with the symphony itself, whose musicianship completely blew me away. For me, the standouts were the woodwinds, which blended perfectly and in complete unison. One of my favorite moments of the night was hearing the combination of violas and bassoons – it was such a warm sound, like drinking a hot toddy on a cold day, and you get a warm stirring feeling in the bottom of your heart that stays there. Amazing!

James Gaffigan, the new associate conductor of the SFS, is young and energetic; he really coaxed amazing sounds out of the musicians. He was a joy to watch, and will be someone to watch out in the near future. Especially with his young age and leading a number of musicians who are probably double his age, I felt like he led the orchestra well with a sense of calm and relate-able (is that a word?) authority.

The night opened with the Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture for Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty, also angsty, and there was one section in which I recognized the melody, but the thought that ran through my head was that I understand why this piece isn’t so well known. Richard Strauss’ Don Juan was next. My thought was that this piece would be really fun to play, if I was a musician in the orchestra – with really fun sounds (fun percussion instruments, dramatic and movie-like themes) and passionate dramatic moments where you could really play the heck out of the melody, but as I sat and listened, my main emotion was absolute confusion. I was confused as to the overall flow of the piece, and what the piece was trying to say. Maybe I completely missed the point but who knows. The pieces were played beautifully however, especially with only one rehearsal!

After intermission, the program closed with the infamous Rach 3 – Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, played by the 23 year old Gabriela Martinez. This monstrosity of a piece is like watching a movie with huge special effects. You watch it not because it has a good story line and it satisfies the soul, but because it’s a spectacle. I keep on comparing this concerto the Rach 2, which is my personal favorite – with a much tighter flow and a more subtle and heartaching musicality. For what it was, it was great. Gabriela Martinez is brimming with talent, but I love my Rach 3 with nostrils blaring, pianist standing up in their seat, with sweat dripping off their face. This piece really calls for someone who is absolutely exploding with emotion, rage, and passion that can’t be held back. In this sense, Martinez fell short – she is currently a bit green proclaiming the message of “let’s just get through this”. On the up side, she will only mature and get better with age. She had flashes of moving musicality and her restraint was uniquely satisfying, but I feel like she would be much better at a Beethoven piece – a Romantic piece that’s characterized by simmering emotion and restraint.

In short: I had a really great time. The San Francisco Symphony is in top notch form, and I am very very excited to see what they will be playing next season. I really wished I had caught their Mozart piano concerto and Beethoven Symphony No. 7 program – a program more like their regular season, thus explaining my attraction to this program.

If you are not a classical music fiend and was curious about what the SF Symphony is like, the Summer in the City series is perfect for you. It’s great theater, and you will be able to enjoy high quality art and musicianship. I dare you to try it.

Thanks to Louisa Spier with the SF Symphony! I really admire the efforts of the symphony to reach out to younger and new audiences, and was glad to be a part of it. I had a great time at Blogger Night, meeting fellow bloggers George, Barce, Patricia, and Kevin.

My previous recommendations of the Summer in the City series here.

I’ll post recommendations for next season’s SFS concerts soon.

Edited to add:

I found more blogs about Blogger Night. I particularly enjoyed this one. Here’s another entry from Social Media.

ABT: Sleeping Beauty, Orange County

Sleeping Beauty


I saw ABT‘s Sleeping Beauty on Tuesday evening, with Gillian Murphy as Princess Aurora, and Ethan Stiefel as Prince Désiré. I saw this new production a few weeks ago in NYC, and I didn’t really love it then either. Thankfully, there have been a few changes, no more “flying” or “suspending” (more like) in this production; seeing Carabosse clawing while suspended in mid-air and the Lilac Fairy trying to look dignified while being tilted in the air sideways was a bit too much. The stage is much smaller in Orange County than it is at the Met; so it was odd to see the tower, and the cenery so much closer together, with not as much free space for the dancers. Gillian looked like she was going to crash into some of the dancers during her solos, however, they adjusted beautifully so no collisions occurred.


The second viewing has confirmed a few things in my mind:


  • The “dream” sequence in which Prince Désiré “flies” through the air (held up by 5 fairy knights) is the most awkward ballet scene ever. No prince can look princely and dignified while being held up by 5 men with blue glitter in their hair.
  • Gillian Murphy is a beautiful, energetic, youthful dancer, but unemotional. Her smile seemed a bit frozen on her face; but are we asking too much that dancers are good actors as well? I’m not sure. She seemed to exude youth and innocence, which is correct characterization. There just didn’t seem to be much difference in emotion throughout the whole ballet.
  • Sascha Radetsky’s dancing as the Bluebird was beautiful. The heights of his jumps rivalled Herman Cornejo’s, who hopefully will recover from his sprained ankle soon. (I see he is scheduled to dance the part of the prince on Sunday! FINALLY….he gets a prince role, it happens waay too rarely). I think I am in the minority when I say that Sarah Lane did not impress me as much as Sascha did in their pas de deux. I must be missing something because she just got promoted as soloist, and is scheduled to Princess Aurora on Sunday. I look forward to seeing her in other roles to help make up my mind.
  • Stella Abrera was beautiful as Lilac Fairy. She didn’t bat an eyelash when her “boat” (riding with the Prince, leading him to Aurora) stopped for a second, then sped up across the stage… even though the whole audience laughed. Stella was my mom’s favorite dancer, my mom thought she was so regal. And indeed, she was.
  • Gelsey Kirkland is a brilliant presence on stage; she mastered the balance between evilness and humor

And I think one of the biggest surprises of the night was the lush sounds of the Pacific Symphony orchestra, under the baton of Ormsby Wilkins. I’ve never heard ABT accompanied by such lush, rich music (somehow, ballet orchestras alway sound so thin and tinny), I was very impressed by the talent of the local community symphony. Perhaps they had more time to rehearse than the ABT ballet orchestra, and I think Ormsby Wilkins did a superb job of urging an emotional performance of the musicians, complete with a beautiful lush, musical cello solo for the Prince dream sequence (although what was happening on stage made me cringe), and violin solos that did not sound squeaky or out of tune (which is a rare occurrence). The OC REgister review disagrees with me about Ormsby Wilkins though, but I am pretty sure I’m right. =D



ABT: Othello, 7/14/07


I scored a last minute ticket to see ABT’s Othello at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last night. Thank goodness for student rush, an amazing price ($15) for amazing seats (mid Orchestra). I saw the Lubovitch Othello in Washington D.C. a few months ago, so I knew what to expect. After being really disappointed that Rasta Thomas was not performing on Saturday evening, I decided to go since that I don’t get much of a chance to see ABT anymore since I am not in NYC. I hadn’t seen Julie Kent (one of my favorite ballerinas) perform this year, so this would be an extra treat. I feel a bit of trepidation about ballet dancers doing modern dance-y things (I was dissatisfied with ABT’s version of Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room” or “Sinatra Suite”)…and after seeing Rasta’s version of Othello in February, I was positive that the comparison would be unfair.

However….Marcelo “I got a bad tan” Gomes as Othello did exceed my expectations…initially, I did not really see him as an angsty, crazed person (he does great good-guy stuff, aka prince in Cinderella, or the sexy “purple pimp” in Swan Lake) but he was pretty angry/angst-filled as Othello. I can tell that he and Julie had rehearsed a LOT and it showed. It was solid, and a great performance. I can still say though, that I prefer Rasta’s version of Othello; Rasta was more loosey-goosey, flowy and full of energy and passion on stage. Marcelo seemed to hold back a tad; had a stiff upper body (per his ballet training), and I felt could have “let go” a bit more, and fully throw himself into the role, esp during the partnering scene with him and Iago, and Othello’s solos. His technique was limiting him a bit, given his ballet training, but I think he really tapped into the deep, insane depths of Othello’s character, and it showed. His pas de deux work with Julie were breathtaking. I think this is probably the best role I’ve seen Marcelo in; I’ve heard Lubovitch is a bit of a task master during rehearsals, and if he is, it certainly showed in Marcelo’s performance. Little choreographic details were very pronounced and solid, I was impressed, each twist, each turn, arm movement…was clear and precise.

Julie Kent…was amazing. I missed seeing her on stage (recently been watching a lot of Vishneva and Ferri, my other two favorite ballerinas), and I remembered why I loved watching her. Such artistry, such technique…a bit subtle, but clearly there underneath her classic technique. She seemed so ethereal, as if she was going to be whisked away by Othello’s anger, but the divine goodness of Desdemonda shone through Kent’s performance.

Cassio was performed by the amazing Herman Cornejo, but in the second act, Cornejo was replaced by Blaine Hoven. It was funny because 1) the substitution was not announced when the switch was made, and 2) Blaine looks similar to Cornejo because they both have curly hair. There were audience members sitting near me who did not know Cornejo was even replaced. (Come on! I found that hard to believe because Blaine has blonde hair, and Cornejo has black hair). Someone else mentioned that it’s funny how Cassio became “taller and blonder” in time for the second act. Blaine was amazing, and it was a pleasure for me to watch him step out of the corps and show his technique solid solo and pas de deux work. Bravo, Blaine…you saved the day. There was an announcement about the switch right before the third act, and I was told later that Herman Cornejo had sprained an ankle during his entrance in Act 1; which was amazing because he finished the whole first act without giving anyone a clue he was injured. Sad for Cornejo, but when the announcement was made before Act III that Cornejo was being replaced, the audience began clapping. Perhaps it was encouragement to Blaine, but a little offensive to Cornejo, as if we were glad he was being replaced. (You can see Blaine as Cassio in the photo above, taken during curtain call).

A little side note: This reminds me of the time I went to see La Boheme at the Met, and Rodolfo was switched during the first and second act, due to illness. It’s a bit jarring to see someone completely different, pretending that they were there from the very beginning. Fun to watch as an audience member though. =)

Sascha Radetsky was channeling a bit of the jailer in Manon as his portrayal of Iago, but I was impressed to see how his dancing technique has improved for the past few years. Radetsky plays such a caricature of a bad guy, but I felt he went a bit deeper with his characterization of Iago. I still prefer Carlos Lopez’s portrayal of Iago,where is that guy anyways?!? Stella Abrera was amazing, and I do hope she gets to be principal in a few years.

Adrienne Schulte as Bianca was so much fun to watch ; she wasn’t much of a seductress as she was an energetic woman eager to please men, with black curly hair flying as she jumps. I saw Sarawanee Tanatanit in Washington D.C., and she was a sultry Bianca, but I appreciated both in their roles and enjoyed the contrast in characterization.

About the music: I was really turned off by Goldenthal’s music the first time I watched it; but this time, I grew accustomed to it; it is very dramatic. I mean, the music is bit too modern for my taste, but it portrays anger, revenge and darkness very well.

Lubovitch has been critiqued for his choreography in Othello, and I know lots of people who don’t like the piece. I like it; even though I felt that the piece dragged a bit in the first act, really picks up at the end of the second and third act. It’s more of a theatrical movement study, following a loose story line. I appreciate it for what it is; it’s definitely a different kind of ballet; non-linear, dark, and moody. And I think Lubovitch succeeded in portraying these perfectly in Othello.

ABT Opening Gala Night: Los Angeles!

ABT in Rodeo

I caught the opening gala night for ABT’s run at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last night. I feel so lucky to have left NYC, only to have the opportunity to watch ABT once more in California. Watching it from a California audience perspective is such a different experience than being in the audience at the Met.

The biggest revelation of the night: The most famous ABT ballerina in California is Paloma Herrera. Screams abounded at her and Jose’s entrance for the Don Q pas de deux. Who knew? I think there are many ABT ballerinas that are really amazing so it’s a bit puzzling how she’s singled out as a popular choice. Of course she’s amazing, but so are Gillian M, Stella A., Irina D., etc.
One overall thought though: This didn’t really feel like an opening night gala performance…more like a repertory performance, like a night at the State Theater in NYC or ABT at the City Center. I wish it had more sparkle and glitz like SF Ballet’s gala last year in NYC, which was quite memorable. I feel that the pieces picked for the gala night didn’t really “show off” the dancers that well.

But one more thought: I have never seen the dancers’ expressions so smiley and happy before. Usually, at the Met, there are signs of fatigue and some smiling, with a sense of professionalism and performance…but tonight, smiles abounded on the dancers’ faces, even after their grueling season at the Met ending just a week ago! Amazing. It seemed like no one had jet lag, everyone was energized, and happy to be in the California sun. I was particularly amazed because I have never seen Michele Wiles smile so much during a performance…she seemed to be having a blast. (In my mind, at the Met, she usually has a subdued smile or no smile at all, esp. as the Queen of the Wilies in Giselle). It was fun to watch. I do hope they get some time to sight see in between rehearsals. Let’s start from the beginning.

Symphonie Concertante: Not my favorite Balanchine ballet, but I can definitely appreciate the musicality of the choreography. I never really liked this piece til I saw Stella Abrera dance one of the lead parts a few weeks ago; she is such a beautiful dancer, so musical. Disappointed a bit since she wasn’t cast in this piece, but Michele Wiles and Gillian Murphy were solid. It’s a nice idea, having Michele Wiles dance the violin part, and Gillian Murphy dance the viola part (the viola was horribly out of tune; you know what they say… violists’ fingers, like thunder, never strikes the same place twice), but in a way it feels a bit gimmicky, and I felt that this “nice” idea ends up being a little restrictive after a while. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the two dancers; Gillian “I wear my heart on my sleeve” Murphy, in comparison with Michele Wiles, who dances with simplicity and classic aesthetic. Gillian is such an bouncy dancer with amazing extensions and showy technique, with Michele Wiles, dancing with understated elegance, playing with the music by pulling back and forth with the musical phrases. Certainly one of the best performances I’ve seen from Michele. It was especially fun to see these two dance together; I read an article a long time ago where it said that Michele and Gillian were “competitors”, and since Gillian is the “showier” dancer between the two, got promoted faster than Michele. Glad to see they are both principals, where they both belong.

The next part: I will call the “March of the Principals

  • Le Corsaire Pas de Deux: Where is the slave pas de deux (my personal fave)? This was such an odd choice since it’s not the well known pdd from Corsaire, and it was a bit flat and really really short. Irina sparkled of course, and the audience gasped at her entrance, when she leaped into David’s arms. I felt that David was highly underused in his role but did his dutiful responsibility as the partner, looking dashing in his facial hair (pulling it off much better than the unfortunate Ethan Steifel with the handlebar moustache in the film) and skillful partnering.
  • Manon: Lescaut’s Pas de Deux from Act II, aka ‘the drunken pas de deux’. I say, next year, just do Manon for the gala…that’ll be good enough for me. Stella Abrera was hilarious, and Herman Cornejo, while acting skills aren’t as good as Steifel, was a happy drunk. Herman didn’t have the usual bottle in hand, instead, he had a gold goblet, and it seemed a bit odd since he kept on drinking out of it. Either he is taking little sips or the goblet is self-replenishing. Personally, I was very happy to see anything from Manon at t the performance, but it must’ve been weird for the audience since this piece done completely out of context, without understanding why he’s drinking, etc. The costumes were so odd too; very purple-y, and not the ones used in the production at the Met. (Where do you borrow ballet costumes like that? at a costume shop nearby?) The audience ate it up though, hilarious laughter. The kids loved it.
  • Don Q Pas De Deux: The hot Latin couple! OK, the other one…Carreno & Herrera. The chemistry between them were sizzling and clearly, they were the audience favorite. The audience clapped throughout this whole piece, even when Herrera would hold a balance for two seconds. Paloma Herrera really came alive when she was doing her fouettes, she was actually smiling very widely (i was holding my breath for her) and seemed to be pushing the music faster, and going ahead of the beat (a big no-no in my book; it’s not musical! But obviously, she has very strong technique) Amazing crowd pleaser of course, and she ended with a triple pirouette and a flourish. Jose matched it with turns of his own, although his facial expression looked very determined and a bit strained, to match his partner’s fire with his own. He held the turns solidly, but did not look as happy as Paloma did during hers. A great ending to the March of the Principals.

OK, I’m almost finished. The gala night ended with Rodeo, a sweet story about a tomboy cowgirl who comes to womanhood in her own way. I have seen Xiomara Reyes as the cowgirl before, and while Marian was very sweet, she did not convince me she was a true tomboy. Her entrance in the yellow dress was very endearing, and she came into her own after her “transformation” into womanhood. Poor Jared Matthews, he has to wear that embarrassing flower patterned vest and striped pants; but plays his part with a bit of edgy coldness and Sascha plays the sympathetic underdog with a sweetness. Again, I think this was an odd piece to end the gala night with; it’s not very “ballet”-like or showy, but at least it has fun music.

Welcome ABT! It was great to see my favorite ballet company again

avenue q tour: opening night on 7/11/07

Spreckels Theater

I took a day trip to see the Avenue Q tour in San Diego a few days ago. At the historic theater Spreckels in downtown San Diego, it was opening night of their stay in San Diego, and the audience was quite full. In contrast with the Broadway audiences, most of the front mezzanine were made up of young people, with one elderly couple that we saw. (I wonder if they knew what the show was about?)

The energy was high, and the audience was highly enthusiastic. The show opened to excited applause. Robert McClure was a solid Princeton, but I felt he really started to loosen up (esp. with the character of Rod) in the latter part of the show. Kelli Sawyer had an amazing voice as Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut, the contrast was fun. Both had hilarious timing, and getting huge laughs during their songs and lines. My favorite character,Trekkie Monster, brought down the house with “The Internet is for Porn”, I thought it was sooo funny how Trekkie pumped the air to the beat in the beginning of the song while he’s still in his window. Christian Anderson handled Trekkie skillfully, no wonder he’s always rotating into the Broadway show, which he’ll be in again in October. I particularly loves how Trekkie quivers when in the presence of Lucy T. Slut, because Trekkie’s pink hair flutters nervously…for some reason, that totally cracks me up…because a few seconds later, he lands in a dead faint.

My friend Chi, accompanying me to the show, though that the Bad Idea Bears stole the show. Minglie Chen did a wonderfully sweet, childish, angelic voice for the yellow Bad Idea Bear, adding an innocence to their outrageous advice. Chi thought that the Bad Idea Bears should have their own TV show, spouting bad advice like “I am so sad, I want to kill myself…you should kill yourself!” and “Let’s get wasted!” For the character of Christmas Eve, Angela Ai has an amazing voice, belting out “Ruv Someone” , and receiving lots of laughs with her lines. I made a personal request to her after the show to tone down the accent, I feel that it’s too much of a caricature of an Asian woman. I realize this is necessary for her character, but it’s just a personal thing ;). Cole Porter (what an amazing name) was the best Brian I’ve seen, with skillful dance moves during “Not Wearing Underwear Today”, and the only Brian I’ve seen who actually received audience applause after that song, almost drowning out Angela Ai’s line, “get a job!”

The audience response for this show is the most enthusiastic I’ve seen for Avenue Q. It’s amazing, people were seriously slapping their thighs, punching the person next to them with laughter. Being the theater geek I am, I spotted Jeff Marx in the audience leaving the show and introduced myself. He is such a nice, laid back guy, and have no doubt he will go far…he is in talks to do a musical based on a movie; while I like original musicals the best, at least we’ll be guaranteed a great book and hilarious lyrics.

Let’s petition to keep original musicals on Broadway, shows that require thought and writing skill …those shows do sometimes succeed on Broadway!