Entertainment » Theatre

Ben’s Trumpet

by Kay Bourne
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jun 3, 2009
Rey Guity as Ben and Ilanga as the Trumpeter in Ben’s Trumpet.
Rey Guity as Ben and Ilanga as the Trumpeter in Ben’s Trumpet.   

Tony Williams' The Urban Nutcracker (now going into its 9th season) has been wonderfully successful; his new choreographed dance sensation Ben's Trumpet deserves a similar future.

Co-sponsored by Wheelock Family Theater - and being danced at their attractive house on the Fenway - the world premiere, based on Rachel Isadora's 1979 Caldecott Award winning picture book Ben's Trumpet, is every bit as exuberant, imaginative, endearing and expressive as the Tchaikovsky/Duke Ellington hybrid. You can see this extraordinary theatrical dance concert through June 7, Friday or Saturday at 7:30 pm or matinees Saturday at 1 pm or Sunday at 3 pm.

The BalletRox at WFT Production is actually three dances culminating in Ben's Trumpet. It's a program that favors narrative, although the opening piece only in its derivation.

First, there's the elegant, frothy La Favorita (a 15-minute selection from the 4-act opera) choreographed by Williams in 1994 to music by bel canto composer Gaetano Donizetti and nicely exhibiting the traditional ballet artistry of five of Williams' in-house professional dance corps: Matt Anctil, Caroline Cohn, Janelle Gilchrist, Autumn Hill, and Olga Marchenko.

That work is paired with choreographer Samuel Kurkjian's animated and witty staging of Serge Prokofiev's entertaining classic introduction for children to the orchestral musical instruments, Peter and The Wolf (as narrated by Leonard Bernstein). Interestingly, there is an historical tie-in with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker: When the Children's Theatre Centre was opened in Moscow in March of 1936, Prokofiev attended the first concert and was tickled at how enthusiastically the children responded to The Nutcracker Suite. The manager of the center noticed Prokofiev's pleasure and asked him to write an orchestral fairy-tale that would help children understand more about the instruments of the orchestra. Prokofiev also wrote the text for the narrator to speak. He first called it How Petya Outwitted the Wolf but changed the title when he realized it gave away the drama's outcome. The work which he wrote very quickly debuted only a month or so following Nutcracker.

Matt Ancti, who nicely served as the sole male dancer in La Favorita, made an appealing Peter whose na?ve boldness and compassion for the imperiled bird and duck is very boyish. The wolf danced by Rick Vigo was suitably scary (his red eyes and mangy fur enhanced his terrifying demeanor). Olga Marchenko was an hilarious duck whose confusion leads to tragedy, while Autumn Hill twittered for all her worth as the Bird who knew to get into a tree when danger approaches. The rubbery Yo-el Cassell made a wonderfully predatory cat with one eye on the bird as a tasty treat and the other on the wolf who posed a danger. Illanga was apt, hobbling along as the crotchety grandfather. Kimber Lynn Drake, Kamau Hashim, and Joe Gonzales were the sort of hunters that keep the rest of us indoors during hunting season.

Both La Favorita, which was a study in dark pink and frosty white, and Peter with its furry and feathery animals, the hunters garbed in bold plaids, and grand dad, like Peter, in traditional Russian peasant clothes were marvelously costumed by Clyde Nantais (a founder of the Boston Dance Company with James Reardon in 1992).


Next: Ben's Trumpet


Through June 7 @ the Wheelock Family Theatre, 180 The Riverway, Boston, Mass. For the performance schedule and more information visit the Wheelock Family Theatre’s website.


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