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Review 2, 12-18: Crew Dance
Magical 'Boheme' Transforms Techies into Movers
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Baz Luhrmann's
exhilarating Broadway production of Puccini's opera, "La Boheme,"
seen December 11 at the Broadway Theatre, offers many things. It's
visually magical, thanks to Catherine Martin's ingenious production
design. It contemporizes opera by casting good-looking, accomplished
young singers and setting the modern jargon surtitles in fonts more
akin to comic books than those found at the Met. One thing it pretty
much doesn't offer, however, is...dance.
Not to say that there
is no movement. Half of the show takes place in the Parisian garret
of the poet Rodrigo, hidden behind a giant, illuminated red sign
reading "L'amour." (It resembles the poet's atelier in Luhrmann's
film, "Moulin Rouge.") Act Three is set at the French border, all
gray and snowy, featuring another seedy apartment. But the second
act, set in the Left Bank's Cafe Momus, pulls out all the stops.
Martin, with lighting designer Nigel Levings, strung lights up and
over the proscenium top all the way to the Easter egg on the ceiling,
lit only in this act. Brothels sat to the right and left of the
proscenium; we could vaguely see some activity through gauze-curtained
windows. Bawdy patrons burst in and out of the cafe, evoking the
atmosphere in the artworks by one of Luhrmann's inspirations, Toulouse-Lautrec.
A marching band followed children on scooters, parading on the catwalk
perched above the orchestra pit, ending with an explosion of streamers
which underscored the stage's rich dimensionality. There was so
much activity that it was impossible to take it all in and read
the surtitles. The effect was like blowing up a balloon and watching
it grow to immense circumference.
However, the most surprising
and intriguing choreography came from an unexpected group. The stagehands
and production crew were visible at all times, so we observed them
making the magic happen in full view. The simplest effect took on
an added dimension, as when a stagehand held two small spots on
the leads and jiggled them a little to create reflected, flickering
light from fireplace flames. The most complex of the crew's actions
was moving the large set pieces, which resembled ships passing one
another in a busy harbor, narrowly avoiding collisions. The crew's
movements had to be quick, economical, and accurate, fundamentals
required by dancers as well. Not only did it involve the crew more
in the production, it allowed for relatively long set changes to
become part of the entertainment, a winning combination.
The leads who performed
on December 11 were Alfred Boe (Rodolfo) and Wei Huang (Mimi) one
of three pairs who rotate shows, and Ben Davis (Marcello) and Jessica
Comeau (Musetta), who rotate with another pair. The rest of the
tribe is rounded out by Daniel Webb (Colline) and Daniel Okulitch
(Schaunard). Costumes were designed by Catherine Martin and Angus
Strathie; sound by Acme Sound Partners. Music director/principal
conductor was Constantine Kitsopoulos.
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