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
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.
© Joffrey Ballet. All rights reserved.