CriticalDance Forum

Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue

In 2010, Oregon Ballet Theatre is offering an alternative to the Balanchine "Nutcracker." Titled, "Holiday Revue," the program is one hour without intermission; choreography is by Christopher Stowell and is to live music. Grant Butler previews the performance in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue

Martha Ullman West reviews the premier on Saturday evening, December 10, 2010, of Christopher Stowell's "A Holiday Review" in The Oregonian. (Scroll pas the "Nutcracker" portion of the review.)

The Oregonian

Author:  Dean Speer [ Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue

Reviewing a Revue
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Holiday Revue”
11 December 2010, 7:30 p.m. – World Premiere Show
Keller Auditorium, Portland, Oregon

by Dean Speer

The hottest new show around may be also the coolest – the creation and premiere of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Holiday Revue” with choreography by its Artistic Director, Christopher Stowell, who provided the rudder for the ideas that steered this boatload of fresh talent.

Putting together a revue is not an original idea, but this package across as such – vitalized by members of the OBT “family” who were invited to share some of their favorite holiday memories – fond ones as well as crazy recipes (included is a song/dance number about lime green jello with cottage cheese and pineapple with vanilla wafers around it in a ring – “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise” by Northwest composer William Bolcom), TV shows, family activities like game boards or making a wreath out of beer bottle tops.

The music is a collection of holiday fare – some well known and some that falls into the category of “speciality." One of my own favorites expresses this writer's frequent thoughts about some dance programs I’ve had to stoically sit through – “...they used to dance, now they do ‘choreography!’” A very droll song indeed by Irving Berlin.

Susannah Mars is a very talented vocalist who sang the entire one hour plus program – no mean feat for any singer, accompanied by arranger/pianist Richard Bower and synthesized keyboardist Reece Marshburn. Mars’ stylizations changed from song to songlike a chameleon, using different accents and changes in timbre.

All of the 11 dancers were well used but it was particularly a showcase for the über virtuoso Javier Ubell, whose story as a Jewish SAB (School of American Ballet) student who progressed through the child roles of the Balanchine “Nutcracker” was the basis for two teRRRific numbers – one serious and one silly [the "Eight Nights of Hanukkah” done as a parody to the tune, “The 12 Days of Christmas”].

I liked how Ubell’s serious solo began with the classic mazurka step and developed into a story, later joined by some of the other men who echoed his motifs.

OBT impresses me as a company where “attitude” is left at the door and everyone pitches in...and supports each other. Where the company is now in its development is just right for engendering this kind of revue. It probably wouldn’t work at some ballet companies but it works very well here.

Praises to each of the cast members: Ansa Deguchi; Anne Mueller; Alison Roper; Chauncey Parsons; Steven Houser; newcomer Brett Bauer; Ubell; Leta Biasucci; Olga Krochik; Christian Squires; and Brian Simcoe.

Historic American television was the opening kernel idea [Japanese Ansa Deguchi as a child watching American holiday television and day dreaming about how wonderful it must be...and now she’s here] and was used as one of the unifying themes throughout.

The costumes by Mark Zappone had a hallmark historic television look about them (think Lucille Ball with a touch of Grace Kelly). The classic mid calf length dresses in black and white patterns and polka dots suggested a 1950s elegance. (Remember that Ball was dressed by the best Hollywood designers of the time and had the ability to look beautiful and glamorous while at the same time being a clown.) These Zappone designs added greatly to the overall feel of the production –a combination of elegance and humor. I should also mention the terrific formal, full-length black ballroom gowns modeled by the cast women and tails for the men during the concluding “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Men were typically in smoking jackets or, if no jacket, then in dress shirts and ties.

Atmospheric lighting by Michael Mazzola provided the right design, enhancing each number. I should also note that for the last two numbers, the men moved the musicians' set to the center of the stage – a nice surprise and a nifty way to conclude the show.

Stowell has really hit his choreographic mark, and I believe, strength. He gives us short, discrete dances that have a clear idea, contain an identifiable beginning, middle and end, unified with a great artistic theme.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue

Heather Wisner reviews the "Holiday Revue" in Willamette Week.

Willamette Week

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue

Bob Hicks reviews the Saturday, December 10, 2011 performace of "A Holiday Review" for The Oregonian.


Author:  Dean Speer [ Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre Holiday Revue

“Holiday Revue”
Keller Auditorium, Saturday, 10 December 2011

by Dean Speer

Good cheer, cabaret revue-style was busting out all over that same evening with OBT’s second edition of popular fare, its "Holiday Revue." Essentially light with the occasional hint of melancholy and of the sweetly romantic and nostalgic, the creative team that put this baby together hit gold, which is a musical and dance tribute to over 100 years of popular Christmas and holiday tunes, including some surprises and one parody for the occasion – “The Eight Days of Hanukkah.” [Oy!]

As the saying goes, a fountain can rise no higher than its source, and when you set the level of music high, the rest tends to rise to it. This is one of the few cases where the dance would not work as well at all or really exist without this base platform. One of the things that carries the show, is the singer Susannah Mars, who in addition to being a great vocalist, is also a great stylist, able to move quickly from period to period and type of song – from the lyric and ballad-like to the syncopated, snappy and patter song mockery of the "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise."

Divided into several thematic sections, such as "Parties and Celebrations" and "Elegance and Romance," it moves along like a tour bus – enough time to enjoy the sights, take some pictures, soak in the sun and atmosphere but not having to worry about logistics or asking directions.

In "Families," they projected onto the backdrop charming photos of every single company member from their respective childhoods – some in holiday costume, some just being extra special cute. This year, OBT solicited similar fare from subscribers and I was honored that one of me on Santa’s lap, when I was only four was used, as was one of Francis Timlin, our dear friend and colleague Erika DeLap and myself all on Santa’s knee taken quite spontaneously many years ago. Erika was most surprised and delighted, giving me “the elbow” to my ribs when this image came up.

Javier Ubell is featured throughout, and is particularly shown off well in "Far From the Home I Love," an introspective solo that taps into his considerable bravura technique and allows him to show emotion effectively.

Choreographer Christopher Stowell really found his stride here and is to be commended for adding such a charming audience- and family-friendly work to OBT’s repertory. He keeps adding ballets that attract and retain interest...and ones which I’m pleased and not the least embarrassed to take my 92-year old father to enjoy – which is saying a lot.

Predominantly an ensemble work, "Holiday Revue" is over too soon, making us wish for more and looking forward to our own, private, holiday reviews.

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