BWW Dance Review: Encores Has Come Again to New York City Center Theater with Grand Hotel The Musical
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 was the grand opening of Grand Hotel. I was thrilled to be in attendance and the performance did not disappoint. With the book by Luther Davis; music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest; additional music lyrics by Maury Yeston, music director of the Encores! Orchestra, Rob Berman; and directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes; as well as a talented cast, the performance was great fun from beginning to end.
I remember the original production of Grand Hotel, The Musical which opened on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theater on November 12, 1989 and later transferred to the Gershwin Theater to finish out its run of 1,017 performances. The show was nominated for twelve Tony awards and won five. It was certainly good, but this remake was a joy to experience.
SYNOPSIS: An aging ballerina, a baron who must steal jewels to make a living, a dying bookkeeper, and a typist with dreams of screen stardom are just a few of the guests who pass through the Grand Hotel in Berlin in the early 1930s, where life goes on even as many of the guests' lives change suddenly and permanently.
The piece opened with a sensuous tango danced by seductive tango dancers Guadalupe Garcia and Junior Cervila, who did their own choreography, as the Countess and the Giggolo. They set the tone, returning periodically throughout, and were on stage once more to close the show. The action on stage often seemed like a three-ring circus, not limited to three rings. The City Center stage is modest in size, but the space was used well, dancing from edge to edge, never appearing overly busy, although there was never a dull moment. The orchestra was on a balcony built on the stage, on either side of the great staircase built center stage, which was utilized by the performers. The space below the balcony, on either side, was used well.
The company's talent abounds with many triple threats, acting, singing and dancing with many Broadway shows, films, and television appearances among their credits. Of particular note were William Ryall in the role of Colonel Doctor Otternschlag whose magnetism was undeniable; Helene York in the role of Flaemmchen, the typist whose beautiful, dancing legs and excellent technique with believable delivery of her character added much to the show; James Snyder in the role of Baron Felix Von Gaigern made us route for this scoundrel who experienced love, remorse, and more; and Brandon Uranowitz in the role of Otto Kringelein, the bookkeeper whose character seemed like a hapless non-entity until he began to dance and sing, later in the show, displaying a many facetted ability, adding comic relief as well. His dancing, including the ability to be lifted while in character, a character which blossoms as he cuts a rug, surprised me, not expecting him to show such ability.
The part of the Ballerina, Elizavetta Grushinskaya, was played by former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Irina Dvorovenko, a Russian native, who has been stretching herself doing theater and television since leaving ABT in 2013. She played the self-involved, aging ballerina convincingly. Rehearsing (on stage) her pointe-work with bourees and lavish port-de bras, she cemented the notion that she is the real thing. Her Confidente, Raffaela Ottanio was played by Natascia Diaz who has a string of accomplishments in musical theater gave the dowdy character a forceful voice, particularly when she sang. The handsome John Clay lll in his NYC debut as Eric was not out of his element.
The ensemble was an important character and the glue holding the performance together. Men and women separately and together filled the stage and the audience with the feeling of 1930s Berlin. The men dancing all together, showing off the choreography and musicality of Josh Rhodes, with their impeccable synch to each other and joy of dance. The ladies too, danced well, dressed beautifully in the style of the era, sporting sequins and feathers. The two Jimmys, James T. Lane and Daniel Yearwood added flare with their duo. Their dancing was energetic and fun to be drawn into.
This show can be seen at New York City Center Theater through March 25, 2018. I recommend you see it.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus