Like some sort of unimaginable champagne, the Joffrey Ballet's
"The Merry Widow" is bubbly one minute, flat the next, only to return
to effervescence and then leave you in the end feeling a bit over
Ronald Hynd's 1975 version is nothing if not inconsistent, and, in
fair measure, it was inconsistently performed by the Joffrey during
Wednesday's opening at the Auditorium Theatre. There are lovely things
about it, Hynd's determined zeal to be fresh and muscular in his
choreography among them. There are waltz motifs, naturally, but there
are others too, such as intricate midlift footwork bestowed on two
leading women. Hynd also provides ballroom elegance while slyly
injecting other dance modes as well, such as a folk-rich corps sequence
for Act II and a rollicking revelers' chorale and can-can for Act III at
It's not exactly the sweep of ethnic dance in "The Nutcracker," but
Hynd's tight little catalog helps the ballet break loose from the
tinkling flutes and chandelier sparkle of the story.
But this ballet about a mythical kingdom and its leaders' efforts to
keep a widow's fortune within their borders is only intermittently funny
— cute here and there, but often just stoically plodding along to make
room for the dance. There's a great deal of dance, true. Still, the comedy
and characterization don't boast the nuance of John Cranko's "The
Taming of the Shrew," which this ballet replaced on the Joffrey
schedule, or Frederick Ashton's "Cinderella." You smile more than you chuckle.
Hynd provides several invigorating pas de deux for the leads, the
widow, Hanna, and Danilo, her suitor. But he also admirably gives a
fine one to the secondary couple, danced with great verve and authority
Wednesday by Yumelia Garcia (maybe the best at capturing the comedy's
mix of sincerity and self-satire) and Graham Maverick, an up-and-comer
showing off fine form until he struggled noticeably during a late,
combative acrobatic duet.
There were other off moments, notably during Hynd's lively Act II
folk dance, whose challenging sections sometimes soared and sometimes
didn't — even the typically terrific Derrick Agnoletti proved off his
In contrast, Miguel Angel Blanco, as Danilo, has never been so
enjoyable, and that's saying something. He cops a guise blending
full-of-himself comic lead and genuinely debonair lover, one who
manages, when he dances, to dazzle with command, style, agility and
buoyancy. And though Victoria Jaiani's widow is more gilded and
graceful than funny, her pas de deux with Blanco are pure joy — their
partnership to composer Franz Lehar's flawless "Vilia" is lovely
pastoral romance, while he whirls her in seemingly endless circles for
an intoxicating, picture-perfect finish to Act II.
Roberta Guidi di Bagno's costumes are fine, but her sets are so-so,
and the Act I embassy ballroom is pale in color and short on detail,
except for a staircase whose gargantuan statues holding chandeliers
disastrously wobble whenever dancers race up or down the steps.
'The Merry Widow'
'The Merry Widow'
When: Through Feb. 27
Where: Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway
Tickets: $24 - $145 at 800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com
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