Off- Broadway, Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, book, lyrics, music and direction by Jonathan Christenson, is a tedious musical, made worse by overacting and the irritating, loud voices of some of the cast members. The title tells it all.This is an example that a musical needs a creative team, rather than just one person in charge of everything.
On January 25, the live transmission of Swan Lake, music of Tchaikovsky, principal choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, by the Bolshoi Ballet, was a wonderful performance of the magnificent ballet. Svetlana Zahkarova was simply breathtaking as Odette-Odile. Her extensions are phenomenal, and her leaps, turns, jumps, and her fouettes in the second act, first scene, were remarkable. She is a brilliant dancer, and a delight to watch. She is, without doubt, one of the finest ballerinas in the world today. Denis Rodkin is another brilliant dancer, and his portrayal of Prince Siegfried was memorable. But the entire company is a joy to see. The superb ensemble cannot be equaled, and every individual soloist was splendid, especially Artem Belyakov as the Evil Genius and Igor Tsvirko as the Fool. I have seen this ballet so many times splendidly performed, and yet I have never been more impressed than I was seeing this performance.
On January 26, New York had a snowstorm, which closed Broadway theaters, including the Gershwin Theatre, where the 44th Annual Hall of Fame was scheduled to take place. Terry Hodge Taylor, who produces the event, called me and said it was canceled. It will now take place in the spring. As the official photographer for the event, I was disappointed. Among the eight honorees to be inducted is the Chairman of The Shubert Organization, my dear friend Philip J. Smith, whose second wedding was photographed by me. Another inductee is F. Murray Abraham, who won a well deserved Oscar as Salieri in Amadeus, and the film is one of my favorite films. Two other honorees are Susan Stroman, one of the finest directors on Broadway, and as a choreographer, she is simply superb, and, believe or not, Frank Rich, who was the theatre critic for The New York Times. Blythe Danner, Alvin Epstein, Marshall W. Mason and Alfred Uhry are the other four inductees for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater. I look forward to photographing them in the spring.
I attended a reception and screening, followed by a Q & A, at The Players for the season two premiere of Shakespeare Uncovered on PBS, which began Friday January 30 at 9pm. Kim Cattrall posed for photos, and is the presenter forAntony and Cleopatra. She was absolutely delightful. The programs are wonderful, and I'm sure that Shakespeare himself would be extremely happy with the series.
Film Society of Lincoln Center presented The New York Jewish Film Festival, January 14-29. The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, by William Gazecki, USA, 2014, is a loving documentary about Sophie Tucker, who starred in vaudeville for sixty years from the beginning of the twentieth century until her death in 1965. She also ventured into burlesque, film and television, but her live performances in clubs made her a star.
The producers, Susan and Lloyd Eckert, spent many years researching her life, mainly through her 400 scrapbooks. She kept every single piece of paper from letters, telegrams, photographs, posters and reviews during her professional life. The clips are wonderful. She appeared on television with Jimmy Durante for the first time in 1950 in a hilarious routine. She appears in another clip with Judy Garland in a 1938 film, and they became close friends. From a film with Ted Shapiro, who accompanied her at the piano for 40 years, there is another very funny clip, as he performed as her straight man. She was a larger than life celebrity, and everyone knew her name in America and England. The film is a fine tribute to her life.
The Birdcage, by Mike Nichols, USA, 1996, is a remake of La Cage aux Folles, a very successful French film, which was then turned into a successful musical on Broadway. This version, with an excellent cast, starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and Gene Hackman, is moderately amusing, but has the virtue of recognizing, sympathetically, gay relationships almost twenty years ago. The original French film was better, and the Broadway musical even more so, but this version is entertaining.
Film Society of Lincoln Center is presenting Dance on Camera, January 30-February 3. Ballet Boys, by Kenneth Elvebakk, Norway, 2013, is a charming documentary about three male teenagers preparing to enter the Norwegian Ballet School. We see them training, while forming a deep friendship in the competitive world of ballet. The three of them are decent, honest, hardworking students, and one wants them to succeed in following their dreams. However, one of them is accepted at the Royal Ballet School in London, and he appears to be the only one who has a chance to become a ballet dancer. It is a beautiful film.
Jiri Kylian: Forgotten Memories, by Don Kent and Christian Dumais-Lvowski, France, 2011, is a documentary about the famous Czech choreographer and artistic director, Jiri Kylian, of the Nederlands Dans Theater. We see his early life as a dancer in Czechoslovakia, his years in London, Stuttgart, Paris, Monte-Carlo and, finally, in Holland, where he created most of his ballets, many of them with his partner Sabine Kupferberg. He speaks of his philosophy of life, and we see many excerpts of his ballets, some imaginative and inventive.. He is an important choreographer, and has had a major influence on the world of dance.
Film Forum is presenting a Charles Laughton Festival February 4-26. I attended a press screening of Jamaica Inn, by Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1939, adapted from the 1936 novel by Daphne du Maurier. It is a costume melodrama taking place in Cornwall, England during the nineteenth century. A gang of ruffians cause shipwrecks, steal the cargo and kill the sailors. The mastermind is an influential squire played by Charles Laughton, greedy for money and slightly insane. A group of famous English actors form the murderous gang, including Leslie Banks, Emlyn Williams, and Robert Newton, and beautiful Maureen O'Hara made her screen debut as an orphan. She was 18-years-old. It is not Laughton's best film, but it is entertaining.
Ballet 422, by Jody Lee Lipes, USA, 2014, is a superb documentary about the creation of a new ballet Paz de la Jolla by Justin Peck, then a member of the corps de ballet and now a soloist of the New York City Ballet. Fans of ballet will enjoy this film. They will watch how a ballet takes shape over two months, resulting in an opening night triumph on January 31, 2013. The company has created over 422 ballets since its founding by George Balanchine andLincoln Kirstein, an astonishing number. It is one of the finest dance companies in the world. The film features three of the principal dancers, rehearsing the ballet, Tiler Peck, Sterling Hytlin and Amar Ramasar, and one admires their dedication and wonderful technique. I am sure that Justin Peck will have a great future as a choreographer. Lovers of dance must see this brilliant film.