By Venus Zarris
From the brief but joyfully jaunty overture of musical happiness, thrillingly delivered by the incomparable Chicago Sinfonietta, to the closing moments of the final act; The Merry Widow offers an enchanting evening of entertaining neo-classical ballet.
The Joffrey Ballet brings this Midwest premiere of choreographer Ronald Hynd’s three-act story to life with grace, elegance and beguiling playfulness. Turn-of-the-century Parisians have never looked so physically fluid. Roberta Guidi di Bagno’s lovely costume and scenic design creates a gorgeous visual playground and the perfect look for this aristocratic love story between a beautiful widow and a handsome count.
Victoria Jaiani and Miguel Angel Blanco are captivating leads, as the widow and count. Their exquisite dancing is fueled by an extraordinary chemistry that can be felt as much when they glance at each other across a ballroom as when they are locked in a passionate embrace.
Yumelia Garcia is mischievously spellbinding as the flirtatious Valencienne. Her extramarital love interest with Camille de Roussillon, wonderfully played by Graham Maverick, creates a scandalously sensational secondary story.
The final act puts on the Ritz in a fancy Parisian restaurant, the legendary Chez Maxim. The ‘Busby Berkeley meets can-can meets ballet’ dance sequence is a lavish extravaganza of color and animated exuberance, and a highlight of this already dynamic night of dance.
Although the story is light on riveting content, the presentation is beautifully executed by this dazzling company of incredible dancers that render a delightfully endearing interpretation of this fanciful tale. Filled with silly slapstick minutia and whimsical romantic intrigue, The Merry Widow proves that a sophisticated ballet can be perfectly charming.
3 ½ STARS
(“The Merry Widow” runs through February 27 at the Auditorium Theatre, 80 East Congress Parkway. 800-982-2787)
* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. The Merry Widow – Auditorium Theatre – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago