COMPANY XIV'S SNOW WHITE
February 5, 2016
In a toss-up between vanity and jealousy, which sin promises the most inspiration for Burlesque? Austin McCormick, the young choreographer whose own success is enough to drive an older choreographer wild, explores both in his cabaret production laced with the story of Snow White. The dark energy underlying this fairytale is subordinated by historical mash-ups and mixed media.
A Juilliard graduate, originally trained in Baroque dance in Santa Barbara, McCormick surrounds himself with virtuosos. His dancers are marvelous; his singers, particularly Lea Helle and Marcy Richardson surprisingly good; his set and costumes by Zane Pihistrom (particularly the lingerie for Snow White) memorable. His Snow White, as played by the charming Hilly Bodin, is so fresh she seems unaware of the murderous instincts of the Queen (Laura Careless) and her barely clad yes men. Careless, who has been with Company XIV since its founding, is released from her ennui only with the death of Snow White. Free at last, her glee strips off her years so that suddenly she seems to be the star of a high school musical.
McCormick constantly introduces new elements: strolling camera/light men whose images flicker on stage dividers and, most effectively, on the back and arm of the Queen; corset/black draped mannequins danced about in one of her best ensemble dances; puppet twirled on a stick and finally a Cyr wheel. The Prince (Courtney Giannone) arrives to save Snow White, wooing her (and stealing the show), with her mesmerizing solo on the Cyr wheel.
While McCormick clearly has an affinity for weaving Baroque decadence into a spectacle, the knack of transforming a space as deftly as any magician, the first half of Snow White dragged by letting ideas play on. Careless seemed care-worn, and sometimes frantic. The second half had more zest and innovation, even though the ending seemed an unnecessary downer.
In Donald Barthelme’s “Snow White” published in 1967, his glamor puss lived with seven men who made Chinese baby food in the basement. That novel was startling for its original spin on a fairytale. For McCormick, his intent seems not to reinvent the story so much as use its premise to give us all a very good time.
EYEON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers