Joffrey’s “Merry Widow” Adds Depth to Lehar’s Tale

February 20, 2011
REVIEW by Make It Better
Dorothy Andries

Content

Luscious music, elaborate sets, and color-saturated costumes grace this production.

The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago’s show is based on Franz Lehar’s operetta of the same name. It boasts breathtaking choreography by Ronald Hynd, who came in to recreate the dances from his 1975 story ballet.

The story is set in the Paris embassy of Ponteverdro, a near-bankrupt European principality. Hanna, a young, wealthy widow from that country, lives in Paris and wants to remarry. However, she must wed a Ponteverdrian for the money in order to remain in the country.

At an embassy ball, handsome Count Danilo is stunned when he sees the glamorous Hanna. A decade ago they were lovers, but pressured by his family, he had rejected her because she was a peasant.

Danilo recalls their tender romance in a touching dance that adds depth to the pain of their sudden encounter.

Victoria Jaiani, the sinuous Arabian dancer in Joffrey’s “Nutcracker,” is Hanna. In addition to her skillful dancing, she is an excellent actress, conveying emotion with a tiny shiver or flick of her wrist. Miguel Angel Blanco is a dynamic Danilo, amazing the audience with powerful leaps and turns.

In a subplot, Yumelia Garcia is an adorable Valencienne, the young French wife of aging ambassador Baron Zeta, played by Matthew Adamczyk. She is having a romance with the handsome French attache Camille, danced by Graham Maverick.

Ensemble numbers, from wondrous waltzes, through vigorous native dances to the Can-Can, are spectacles in themselves, with magnificent Belle Epoque costumes by Roberta Guidi Di Bango.

Hynd’s expansive choreography includes men holding the women aloft or spinning them in dazzling, dizzying circles. The Chicago Sinfonietta, led by Scott Speck, performs Lehar’s music memorably.   

“The Merry Widow” plays Feb. 16 to 27 at the Auditorium Theatre. Tickets are $25 to $145 and are available at Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., or the Auditorium Theatre box office. Call 800-982-2787 or visit ticketmaster.com