Little Dancer OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Lexey Swall
  • NY TIMES

  • HUFFPOST

  • WASHINGTON POST

Opening Night:
October 25, 2014
Closing:
November 30, 2014

Theater: The Kennedy Center / 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC, 20566

Synopsis: 

Part fact, part fiction, and set in the harsh backstage world of the Paris Opera Ballet, this world premiere Kennedy Center musical is inspired by the story of Marie van Goethem, a young ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas and became, inadvertently, the most famous dancer in the world. Torn by her family's poverty, her debt to the artist, and the lure of wealthy men, she struggles to keep her place in the corps de ballet--a girl on the verge of womanhood, caught between the conflicting demands of life and art.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Little Dancer

    Sunday at the Opera With Edgar

    Charles Isherwood

    November 20, 2014: Many decades have passed since ballet played a significant role in musical theater, which may be one reason Little Dancer, a new musical directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, about the girl immortalized in the Edgar Degas statue of the title, has a whiff of the antique about it. This polished and pretty if less than transporting show, with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, features a dramatic ballet in which the young heroine relives the rapturous highs and demoralizing lows of her life. As danced by Tiler Peck, the brilliant New York City Ballet principal who plays the central role, this wordless passage brings the musical to a stirring climax. Although Ms. Stroman’s classical choreography is often more correct than inventive, here she finds a way to turn classroom steps expressive, as Marie (Ms. Peck) moves from shining pride in her immaculate technique to confusion and terror as visions of her past life buffet her around the stage. The musical, making its premiere at the Kennedy Center here, was inspired by the real-life Marie van Goethem, the teenage model for Degas’s famous sculpture, originally sculpted in wax and later cast in bronze. (The National Gallery of Art here has more than one version.) Not a lot is known about van Goethem’s life, so the show’s authors have imagined her trajectory through the rougher streets of Paris and the cutthroat world of the Paris Opera Ballet. Ms. Peck plays the young Marie, Rebecca Luker the girl all grown up. In a framing device set in Degas’s studio shortly after his death, the older Marie returns to finally see the sculpture she posed for — with, as we shall learn, life-changing consequences. Ms. Luker, in radiant voice, begins to reminisce in song about her first meeting with Degas (Boyd Gaines), celebrated for his paintings of dancers onstage and mostly off, in moments of quiet concentration or idle boredom as they prepare to perform. (The handsome set design, by Beowulf Boritt, employs projections, by Benjamin Pearcy, of some of the artist’s signature works.)

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  • HUFFINGTON POST REVIEW OF Little Dancer

    Little Dancer Enchants at the Kennedy Center

    Susan Dormady Eisenberg

    November 21, 2014: How many Broadway musicals can you name that concern themselves with the agony and ecstasy of creating art? I remember one: Sunday in the Park with George by Sondheim. And now there's a second, the Kennedy Center's Little Dancer which debuted last night. Commissioned by the Center's former president, Michael Kaiser, this seven million dollar musical evokes the glamour, backstage politics, and social underbelly of the Paris Opera Ballet, a company that expected its youngest dancers to mingle with its wealthy patrons. So along with its art motif, this show, set in 1880, becomes a soaring paean to the majesty of ballet while also revealing the price of being a dancer in the nineteenth century. If you're seeking charming, often winsome melodies you can't get out of your head, stirring performances by the leads with fine work from the supporting cast, and a book that will intrigue and ultimately move you, run to the Kennedy Center box office. Sadly, for D.C. audiences, the show will close on November 30, but with some tweaking this highly original musical will enchant theatergoers if it moves to to New York. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman has created palpable magic in tandem with composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist-book author Lynn Ahrens, the Tony winning team responsible for Ragtime and Rocky.

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  • WASHINGTON POST REVIEW OF Little Dancer

    ‘Little Dancer’ at the Kennedy Center, with the accent on ‘dancer’

    Peter Marks

    November 21, 2014: Love of ballet flows from every pore and plie of Little Dancer. The new Kennedy Center musical showcases most rewardingly the technical gifts of Tiler Peck, a beguiling New York City Ballet star cast here as the gamine model for the celebrated Degas sculpture of the show’s title. That ardor for the dance form and its classical rigor are filtered through the becoming choreography of director Susan Stroman, who, in the footsteps of Agnes de Mille and Jerome Robbins, has created as a finale for this musical — still, it seems, deeply in progress — a delightful dream ballet, with Peck at its center. But musical theater doesn’t live by dance alone. In many of its other particulars — having to do with plotting, character development and expressing interior life through song — Little Dancer feels as if it has only scratched the surface of possibility of its story, about the hopes of a talented young dancer, both immortalized and dashed on an artist’s pedestal. So Stroman, composer Stephen Flaherty and book and lyrics writer Lynn Ahrens would seem to have more work to do if Little Dancer is to sweep out the cliches and present itself as more than just another pretty face.

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