By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
The Bartered Bride
You probably haven't seen The Bartered Bride before, and you probably shouldn't let this opportunity slip by. Bedrich Smetana is an overlooked but wonderful composer whose music swoops and soars like the winds blowing off the Sudetes Mountains near his hometown of Litomysl, in the Czech Republic. The plot of The Bartered Bride is the silliest kind of farce (its choicest gag involves a dancing circus bear on a rampage), but the music is lush and lovely. Also, the young pupils of the New World School of the Arts have a preternatural maturity for pulling off tough productions. (Their Magic Flute a few years ago was better than that of some pro companies.) To see them in action is to feel suddenly hopeful about the future of opera.
A slapstick spoof of a propaganda film that's slapstick to begin with — albeit unintentionally — Reefer Madness is a tricky little play. It's also a very good one. Writers' Studney and Murphy's best idea was to allow their funny little musical to remain as scary to modern audiences as Reefer Madness must have seemed to the gullible, back in the day. Songs parodying 1930s credulousness and conservatism give way to scenes of hypnotically troubling imagery — dismembered limbs, abandoned babies singing for their mothers, and the rape of teenagers being some of the noteworthy motifs. Rising Action could have mixed its sound a little better, and some of the singers could benefit from more training, but Reefer Madness remains an evening of good, weird fun.
Dances at a Gathering and Who Cares?
Dances at a Gathering and Who Cares? certainly aren't daring choices for the Miami City Ballet, but they are inspired. Dances, choreographed by Jerome Robbins of the New York City Ballet in 1969, was Robbins's second ballet set to the music of Chopin, and has lately enjoyed quite a revival. In the past two years, it has been rediscovered in New York, Paris, Copenhagen, and Japan, allowing unprecedented large audiences to experience the intersection of Robbins's smooth, romantic vision with Chopin's bottomlessly nuanced melodies. Then, for a lighter counterpoint, witness Balanchine's vision of frisky Gershwin warhorses "Strike Up the Band," "Who Cares," "'S Wonderful," and "I Got Rhythm."