The Merry Production

February 20, 2011
REVIEW by Gapers block
Britt Julious


Rehearsal floors scuffed by years of wear and tear stood out against the gray skyline of the Chicago loop. The rehearsals for the Joffrey Ballet's latest production, "The Merry Widow," were in contrast to the gorgeous, sumptuous theatrical feast of the live production. Still, the vivacity of the live show - consistently humorous and a visual treat for the senses - was evident among the performances by the cast members and the enthusiasm of original choreographer Ronald Hynd.

Originally an adaptation of Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow, Hynd's choreography (coupled with lush costumes by Roberta Guidi di Bagno and orchestral accompaniment by the Chicago Sinfonietta) showcases a love story between the beautiful widow, Hanna Glawari and the Count Danilo, during the glitz and glamor of 20th century Paris.

"I started with a blank canvas," Hynd said. "I had to bring the thing down to its essence, to what the music was saying. Follow the music and the spirit of the music, and the show reveals many intriguing cross currents."

Indeed, a variety of different scenes take place at one time during many of the scenes, making the show feel at once enjoyable and also realistic. Although the show is wrapped within elegant imagery, little touches of down-to-earth personality are evident throughout the performance: a collective snap by the crowd of performers, the rushed yet coordinated patter of the dancers' feet.

The viewer must pay attention to the scene in front of them as new surprises endlessly abound. As well, there is a heavy level of importance in each scene, as one particular move signals a moment to find the humor in the beauty. The rush of activity from one scene to the next, from one second to the next, makes "The Merry Widow" a wonderful transitional production for the spring. In a parallel to the energy of the show, the constant thrush forward, a myriad of scenes come together to form one complete moment, when the Count and the widow meet again. The scene, like many of the earlier scenes, is flirty and fun, a theatrical experience that tricks the audience into a rather straight-forward and easy-to-follow ballet.

As Hynd reiterated, "The men look handsome, the women look divine. What more could you want for a night out?"

The Joffrey Ballet's "The Merry Widow" runs through February 27.