Review "Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow": A Stylish Visual Spectacle

February 18, 2011
REVIEW by Chicago Now
Katy Walsh


The Joffrey Ballet presents



At the Auditorium Theatre,

50 E. Congress Parkway

Adapted from Franz Lehar's operetta

Choreographed by Ronald Hynd

Assisted by Annette Page

Staged by John Meehan

Conducted by Scott Speck

February 18th, 19th, 24th, 25th, 26th at 7:30pm

February 19th, 20th, 26th, 27th at 2pm

Thru February 27th

Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes with two fifteen minute intermissions.


Boy loves girl. Family won't let him marry her because she's penniless. She marries another and becomes a wealthy widow. Boy still loves girl. Now, his country wants him to marry her because she has 20 million francs. Girl loves boy but fears he loves her for her money. Add in a cheating wife, French lover, overbearing Baron and dancing girls, The Joffrey Ballet presents the Midwest Premiere of Ronald Hynd's THE MERRY WIDOW. Composed by Franz Lehar as an operetta in 1905, the Joffrey's production is a three-act story originally choreographed in 1975 for The Australian Ballet. THE MERRY WIDOW is a light-hearted frolic that exquisitely swirls from one magical place into the next.


Considered a comedy, THE MERRY WIDOW challenges the serious nature of ballet. The show starts off with some buffoonery that looks more like charades than dancing. The exaggerated storytelling gestures feel a little vaudevillian. The miming dissipates as Yumelia Garcia and Graham Maverick begin the first of several passionate movements. As secret lovers, Garcia and Maverick dance with a sensual urgency. Despite her petite size, Garcia commands the room with a feisty presence. Playing widow and suitor, Victoria Jaiani and Miguel Angel Blanco is a stunning coupling. Their courtship is danced from flirtation to engagement. The romance gracefully unfolds on stage. Independently, they woo each other with solo exhibits of delightful physicality. Blanco, in particular, brings his game leaping to impressive heights. Together, they captivate in a meeting of the bodies. The union has a breath-taking allure. Their act one finale swivels to an end in a gorgeous flourish. The entire company adds to the merriment with remarkable dance sequences. In act two, the male chorus delivers a memorable folksy number with synchronized kicking.


Adding to the majestic splendor, Costumes and Scenery Designer Roberta Guidi Di Bango, constructs three grand structures to frame the action. From ballroom to garden gazebo to Parisian restaurant, the refined details create three magnificent showcases. Within the set, Guidi Di Bango dresses the ensemble in French sophistication flair. Gents are in black tie and ladies whirl in long sparkly skirts. In other scenes, Guidi Di Bango goes gypsy-Arabian bottomed off with pink boots... on the guys. At Maxim's, vibrant can-can dancers swish yellow and orange ruffled petticoats. Meanwhile, the 'customers' are decked out in their finest with the ladies in marvelous oversize millinery. A stylish visual spectacle!


THE MERRY WIDOW is a charming escape from the real world. The beauty enchants in wonder. Throughout this performance, the line from 'Chorusline' kept dancing through my head... 'because everything is beautiful at the ballet.' Yes, the Joffrey certainly is! Having seen the Lyric Opera version, Jen describes the performance with 'elegant, playful and dreamy.'


Production photography courtesy of Herbert Migdoll.