NY Theatre Ballet delights children with lively version of "Peter & Wolf"

By Wendy Liberatore, The Daily Gazette
Monday February 11, 2013

ALBANY — New York Theatre Ballet knows how to tell an absorbing tale.
That’s just what this ensemble did on Sunday afternoon at The Egg — to the delight of hundreds of children who came out to see its lively version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf;” along with a bonus, the premiere of the troupe’s newest work, “Bark! In the Park.”
Of course, the packed theater of boisterous youngsters came to see the afternoon’s headliner, the classic “Peter and the Wolf.” Countless choreographers have attempted to adapt the Prokofiev score into a ballet. It seems like it would be a breeze of an assignment as the production had everything — an excellent score, an earnest narrator and sympathetic archetypes.
Still, many dance makers have fallen short. Not, thankfully, John McFall whose fanciful version, danced by New York Theatre Ballet, sailed along with humor and charm in a complete and gratifying package.
As the dance was not decorated with a lot of production values, the ballet soared because of its choreography and its dancers. Marius Arhire portrayed Peter, the boy who defied his grandfather by playing in the meadow. Dressed in a baseball cap and jersey, Arhire was a spinning and leaping sensation, lending his Peter a boyish and carefree character that was hard to resist.
Amanda Treiber portrayed the delicate Bird that flitted about while a preening Cat, played by Amanda Lynch, stalked her. The Wolf, as portrayed by Mitchell Kirby, was expectedly ill-tempered and dangerous, without being too frightening.
Yet what was so clever about this particular version were the Zanies, performed by Seth Ives and Philip King. They filled in the set gaps as the gate that Peter left open, the trees from which Cat and Bird glared at each other and the Wolf’s valets who served him champagne and brought him his smoking jacket after he devoured Duck.
In addition to the dancing, the costumes by Christine Joly were also well-done, especially for the proud and pretty Bird as a cancan dancer and the shaggy Wolf with his long, unruly tail. And while some children hid their faces at the sight of the Wolf, all ends well with the joyous cheers from the children.
The program opened with “Bark! In the Park,” which told the story of a dog that broke free from his family in Central Park. Choreographed by Chase Brock of “Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark” with a commissioned score by Karen LeFrak, played live on piano by Michael Scales, the ballet was an adventure. Yet at times, it was a confusing one.
For example, some of the animals the dog, Mr. Benjamin, met at the zoo were unidentifiable. The sea lions resembled fish or mermaids while the snow leopards looked like a couple out on a hot date. The statue of Balto baffled as well. Even though the artistic director, Diana Byer, told the audience in advance that Mr. Benjamin would encounter Balto, the meeting was mystifying.
Still, the ballet was colorful and kept a brisk pace until the happy conclusion — a reunion between dog and family cinematically conducted in slow motion.

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