BWW Review: THE WIDOW'S BROOM at The Festival Ballet - Too Lovely for Words!
I have not been to a ballet since I took my daughter to a performance of The Nutcracker some thirty years ago, so it was with some trepidation that I accepted the assignment to review the Festival Ballet's performance of THE WIDOW'S BROOM, based on the story by Chris van Allsburg. I was afraid I would be first bored to death and then unable to write a coherent review. I could not have been more wrong about my first fear-let's see how I do with the second.
This production was staged at Veterans Auditorim. The Saturday evening performance drew an intimate crowd with a substantial children's contingent; I was surprised but should probably not have been since THE WIDOW'S BROOM is a children's book. I looked at my program and was pleased to see that Eugene Lee, he of Trinity Rep and Saturday Night Live fame, was the set designer. I also found the brief synopsis of the story, without which I would scarcely have been able to follow the plot. Ballet, it turns out, is a completely non-verbal form of entertainment and communication. What is the poor word guy to do?
It turns out, there was no need for alarm: in ninety minutes The Festival Ballet cast a spell that still lingers two weeks later (sorry for the delay-unavoidable). Let's start with the set by Lee and lighting by Alicia Colantonio. The show opens with the widow (danced by Kirsten Evans that night-different casts for the two performances) and her son (Kailee Felix) in a tableau in their home of an evening, but obscured by a gauze screen framed by solid edge. The effect was to create a life -sized book cover, which then opened and invited us in. It was a lovely effect and the first of many. When dancers needed to move unseen across the floor, they hid behind rolling cabin walls. And when the action called for a night sky, Lee and Colantonio collaborated on a bright orange moon and what seemed like as many stars as there are in the sky-memorable and beautiful.
But how about the dancing? This show had me from the get-go. Choreographer Victor Plotnikov's opening sequence is very tight dancing coven-a dozen or so witches who seem to come almost out of the ground before thy take flight in support of the head witch, Pingrel (Eugenia Zinovieva). To my inexpert eye, the next most engaging dances were the fire-dancing flames created by Brenna DiFranceso and David DuBois. As good as that was, it could only hold a candle to the longer, hotter pas de deux performed by the Widow and the Broom (Alex Lantz). Theirs was the type of grace and strength, which gives ballet its rep. These two danced beautifully, but I have really no basis for comparison. All I can tell you is these people can dance, it would be hard to imagine people more graceful, and that the whole evening flew by.
The Festival Ballet alternates among three venues-The Vets, PPAC for The Nutcracker, and its own Black Box theatre on Hope St. in Providence. Tickets can be obtained by calling the different venues or at festivalballetprovidenceprovidence.org. Festival Ballet is celebrating its fortieth year; isn't it time you gave them a shot?