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A Bittersweet Bite: Company XIV’s ‘Snow White’

February 5th, 2016 Comments off
 Hilly Bodin as Snow White and Courtney Giannone as The Prince in 'Snow White.' (Photo: Mark Shelby Perry via The Broadway Blog.)

Hilly Bodin as Snow White and Courtney Giannone as The Prince in ‘Snow White.’ (Photo: Mark Shelby Perry via The Broadway Blog.)

Austin McCormick—founder, choreographer, and artistic director of Company XIV—is back with his signature brand of unique storytelling that mashes up Baroque dance, circus, opera, ballet, inventive design, and just about anything else he can toss in his theatrical kitchen sink. But in spite of the vast array of genres converging in his latest endeavor, Snow White (playing through March 12 at the Minetta Lane Theatre), lacks cohesion and emotionally engaging storytelling.

Company XIV's 'Snow White' (Photo: Steven Trumon via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Snow White’ (Photo: Steven Trumon via The Broadway Blog.)

Returning, once again, to the Brothers Grimm as source material, McCormick leans heavily on the German influence, incorporating an unintelligible narrator to shuffle along the familiar story. We follow Snow White (Hilly Bodin)’s battle for survival against the evil Queen (Laura Careless), who would like nothing more than to see the girl dead so she can reign as the fairest one of all. Banishing her to the forest, the Queen orders a huntsman to kill the girl, but unable to commit the crime, he kills a forest creature instead. In a bit of ineffective stagecraft, the Queen—keen on eating the girl’s innards—hacks away at a suspended block of ice that glows red from within.

Other theatrical effects, particularly the use of live video feed, deliver much more punch. Snow White—like a cat with nine lives—defends herself against the Queen’s continued vicious attacks. This includes an exquisitely choreographed sequence where the Queen disguises herself as a bodice-selling pauper and literally tries to constrict her to death. But to no avail, for when Snow White later falls under the spell of a poisoned apple and is placed in a glass coffin (imaginatively created through a ritualistic envelopment of plastic wrap), the Prince (Courtney Giannone) enters to deliver a resurrecting kiss followed by a celebratory “Rhoedenrad”-inspired performance, a German circus act where the performer manipulates a hoop or wheel as it rolls about like a coin.

Laura Careless as The Queen in Company XIV's 'Snow White." (Photo: Mark Shelby Perry via The Broadway Blog.)

Laura Careless as The Queen in Company XIV’s ‘Snow White.” (Photo: Mark Shelby Perry via The Broadway Blog.)

In the Company XIV tradition, the multi-talented ensemble dances, sings, and flips their way through the production, outfitted in fantastical (if occasionally clumsy) costumes by Zane Pihlstrom. But McCormick is unable to extract a narrative that engages the audience beyond the wow factor. Bodin and Careless (as Snow White and the Queen respectively) are captivating, setting the bar high in terms of technique and utter abandonment. The others do due diligence with McCormick’s athletic choreography but fail to capture a deeper sense of connection to the source material.

Those who haven’t seen Company XIV before will revel in its imaginative interpretation. If you are familiar with McCormick’s work and a fan, as I am, you might find yourself feeling a bit restless at this production and wondering how the company may next interpret “happily ever after.”

Snow White
Company XIV
Minetta Lane Theatre
18-22 Minetta Lane, NYC
Through March 12

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him online at @roodeloo.

Three to See: February

February 3rd, 2016 Comments off

It’s been a mild winter but things are heating up Off Broadway. Take a look at our top picks of the month!

Company XIV's 'Snow White' (Photo: Steven Trumon via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Snow White’ (Photo: Steven Trumon via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s Snow White
Artistic director Austin McCormick is back with another voluptuous, adult-only fairly tale inspired by the Brothers Grimm. Expect a dark, dangerous and decadent evening of circus, opera, dance, theatre, music, high fashion and lavish design. The show contains partial nudity—16 and over admitted.

Company XIV’s work is a unique mash up of classical texts, Baroque choreography, eclectic music, pop culture, opera, burlesque, ballet, gender bending, high fashion, theatrical staging and sumptuous design that has wowed both audiences and critics. Taking his cue from theatre/dance/opera under the reign of Louis XIV, director/choreographer Austin McCormick creates a compelling 360-degree experience for audiences. The players of Company XIV are theatrical libertines, who tempt, delight and fully immerse their audiences in the experience of their performances, inviting them to be seduced and liberated!

Snow White
Minetta Lane Theatre
18-22 Minetta Lane, NYC
Opening night: February 3
Through March 12

(l to r) Bill Irwin, Shaina Taub, and David Shiner in 'Old Hats.' (Photo: Kevin Berne from the ACT production in San Francisco.)

(l to r) Bill Irwin, Shaina Taub, and David Shiner in ‘Old Hats.’ (Photo: Kevin Berne from the ACT production in San Francisco.)


Old Hats

What’s old is new again at Signature Theatre Company, where Bill Irwin and David Shiner bring their whimsical theatrical combination of music, technology and movement back to the state. This production reunites the clowns with original director Tina Landau and introduces their new songstress and comic foil Shaina Taub, hailed as “a young Judy Garland meets grown-up Lisa Simpson” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

 

Old Hats
Signature Theatre Company
The Pershing Square Signature Theatre
480 West 42nd Street, NYC
Opening night: February 18
Through April 3

Dot Vineyard Theatre

Dot
Susan Stroman momentarily puts her dancing shoes aside and sidesteps from musical theater to helm Dot, a new play by Colman Domingo. The holidays are always a wild family affair at the Shealy house. But this year, Dotty and her three grown children gather with more than exchanging presents on their minds. As Dotty struggles to hold on to her memory, her children must fight to balance care for their mother and care for themselves. This twisted and hilarious new play grapples unflinchingly with aging parents, midlife crises, and the heart of a West Philly neighborhood.

Domingo (Wild With Happy) reunites with Stroman at The Vineyard following his solo show A Boy And His Soul and his Tony Award-nominated performance in The Scottsboro Boys, also directed by Stroman.

Dot
The Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street, NYC
Opening night: February 23
Through March 20

Theater Buff: Cinderella’s Steven Trumon Gray

October 21st, 2015 Comments off

Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. This month our fairy tales become a naughty reality with Steven Trumon Gray, who currently stars in Company XIV’s Cinderella.

Steven Trumon Gray (photo: Rick Day via The Broadway Blog.)

Steven Trumon Gray (photo: Rick Day via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
Steven Trumon Gray

Hometown:
Iowa City, Iowa

What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
Peter Pan. I think there’s something about not feeling like I belong on this plane of existence/reality that I resonate with. I also feel like I’m meant to create, explore and approach life with an air of playfulness in this lifetime. So, it seems like Peter Pan is quite the fit.

Company XIV's 'Cinderella' (photo: Mark Shelby Perry via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Mark Shelby Perry via The Broadway Blog.)

You have quite a range of talents—from stage performer to a successful photography career—which came first and how have your various disciplines evolved?
I actually began photography when Hurricane Sandy ruined Company XIV‘s old space in Brooklyn at 303 Bond. I was out of a job and for my birthday my mom bought me a cheap Canon camera, because she wanted to know how I saw the world. And I ended up realizing I like photographing humans more, so after a commercial gig I acted/modeled in, I spent all my buyout on upgrading my equipment and took my times in between performance projects to learn Photoshop, do test shoots, and try to teach myself how to be a “professional.”

I started gymnastics at age 3 and quit at age 17. I started dancing soon after quitting gymnastics then went to the University of Iowa where I double majored in Dance and Vocal Performance. All my aerial skill sets are fairly self-taught, or I learned from YouTube videos. I’ve had one pole private to prep for a pole duet Allison and I did for Nutcracker Rouge last year, but haven’t had any Lyra training. Allison taught me a few partnering skills she gathered from Cirque and I had to learn my own solos and fill in the transitions. I’m lucky to have done gymnastics or dance, aerial and the physicality I have wouldn’t have been as easily obtained. I’m glad I also work with patient partners as I’m learning new skill sets for shows.

Steven Trumon Gray (photo: Jeffery Beasley via The Broadway Blog.)

Steven Trumon Gray (photo: Jeffery Beasley via The Broadway Blog.)

If I wasn’t a performer, I would be:
I would love to work as a Director of Photography on film sets, so I’d get to craft, experiment and travel, or I would teach dance at a university.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
I enjoy the curtain call. For almost all my XIV experiences I don’t even show up on stage for about 30 minutes to even an hour in, so intermission is usually my call to places. My anxiety preshow is pretty elongated then I feel as though I get shot out of a canon for the rest of the show. So curtain call is my “Namaste, have a nice day… I survived… Yay!” moment.

Cinderella is quite risqué in the costume department—any secrets to keeping everything in place?
Haha… That’s a good question. I’m always worried my right nut is going to fall out the side of my thong (yes, only my right) so I have to pull up the sides of the thong way too high… almost like the Pamela Anderson Baywatch-style one piece as it sits under the corset so it doesn’t fall down and create slack in the undergarment. That usually does the trick. Oh and manscaping is key… The audience is WAY too close even for their own comfort sometimes.

There’s SO much more! Take the leap…

Read more…

Review: Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’

October 6th, 2015 Comments off
Company XIV's 'Cinderella' (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

French poet Charles Perrault (1628-1703) might not know what to make of Company XIV’s wildly sensual and dynamic interpretation of his 1697 fairytale, Cinderella. But it’s hopeful that the progressive thinker, who didn’t pen his first story until age 70, would be delightfully surprised by Austin McCormick’s baroque mash-up.

Allison Ulrich in 'Cinderella' (photo: Mark Shelby Perry) via The Broadway Blog.)

Allison Ulrich in ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Mark Shelby Perry) via The Broadway Blog.)

The story is familiar to all. Young girl (Allison Ulrich) is abandoned to the care of her wicked stepmother and equally wretched stepsisters after the untimely death of her parents. In this case, “Step-Mother” is portrayed by Davon Rainey, an ebony tower of fierceness with legs that belong on the catwalk, and his garish offspring (Marcy Richardson and Brett Umlauf) are equipped with voices that deftly traverse from classical to pop.

Such is the secret potion behind McCormick’s wonderment. Founded in 2006 as a unique blend of circus, Baroque dance, ballet, opera, live music, and lavish design, his body of work and the ensemble tasked with performing it continue to find strength in a unique multidisciplinary style.

Dissected, you may realize that elements of McCormick’s theatrical vocabulary appear beyond the scope of Company XIV. Sure, you can see a multi-million dollar Cirque du Soleil spectacle in Las Vegas or catch a burlesque show at New York City’s Slipper Room. The Met will deliver a cacophony of arias if you can afford them and Broadway is at capacity with belters in pin spots vying for your attention. But there is something about McCormick’s eye that is wholly unique.

Company XIV's 'Cinderella' (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

From a choreography perspective, McCormick’s Julliard dance degree shines through as his specificity of movement bristles with athleticism and nuance. His further training at The Conservatory of Baroque Dance pays homage to Perrault’s era. Add circus elements that include an aerial ring (used for a seductive duet between Ulrich and Steven Trumon Gray, who plays the Prince) and pole dance (miraculously performed by Richardson while delivering “Ah! Je ris de me voir” from Gounod’s opera, Faust) and the evening gleefully unravels into a bacchanalian feast for the senses.

Marcy Richardson (top) in 'Cinderella' (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Marcy Richardson (top) in ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Helping to create the illusion are lighting designers Jeanette Yew and Devin Jewett, who cast saturated hues from every angle of the Minetta Lane Theatre. Set and costume designer Zane Pihlstrom works wonders with boning and sheer fabrics and it’s a feat unto itself that all of the performer’s privates stay contained. Of course, not much is covered and the show is intended for audiences 16 and older.

Beyond the flesh (and plenty of it), McCormick’s fluid exploration of sexuality and sensuality ripples throughout the evening. His male ensemble, mostly in heels, delivers an undeniable androgynous eroticism, while the female members exhibit strength and athleticism that often defies what mainstream media may consider “feminine.”

If there is one minor criticism to be made, it is that Cinderella lacks a visceral through line. Loose moments of improvised dialogue (particularly from the Step-Mother) diminish the power of the choreography, and missed moments (such as Cinderella and the Prince’s first meeting) leave the audience entertained but not necessarily emotionally invested. Amid all of the flourishes, a number of deliberate respites might help the show resonate more deeply.

That being said, Cinderella is an explosion of talent. Forget triple-threats, the dozen performers that grace the stage have an unlimited arsenal to offer. Fortunately, McCormick is a sharp shooter.

Cinderella
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane
Through November 15

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @roodeloo.

Company XIV Returns With a Sexy New Season

September 18th, 2015 Comments off

Cinderella Company XIVCompany XIV—one of our favorite (and slightly naughty) downtown performance companies— returns with their 2015-2016 Off-Broadway season, which will include three adult only shows: the world premiere of Cinderella (September 22 – November 15), a revival of their sexy hit holiday show Nutcracker Rouge (November 24 – January 17), and the world premiere of Snow White (January 26 – March 12), all conceived, directed and choreographed by Drama Desk Award nominee Austin McCormick. Since the shows include partial nudity, ticket holders must be a minimum of 16 years old.

The extraordinary artists of Company XIV will entertain you with their latest sensual and erotic world premiere production, Cinderella, a dazzling new creation based on the baroque fairy tale by Charles Perrault. Sip a libation whilst you experience a thrilling fusion of nightlife and theater, featuring XIV’s unique blend of live opera, circus, burlesque, vaudeville, baroque dance and sumptuous design.

Company XIV's 'Cinderella' (photo: Steven Trumon Gray via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Steven Trumon Gray via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV and Artistic Director Austin McCormick continue to garner critical acclaim. The NY Times calls McCormick’s work “inventive and brainy, a high-entertainment mix of music-hall, cabaret, theater and dance” and praised Le Serpent Rouge as a “sensuous marvel.” Company XIV’s critically acclaimed Nutcracker Rouge was called “dazzling and genius” (NY Times), “the perfect hot date” (TimeOut NY Critics’ Pick) and the year’s “sexiest dance performance” (Paper). Both Nutcracker Rouge and Snow White were NY Magazine Critics’ Picks. Metro NY says the company has “world-class talent” and Flavorpill calls the group “magical and sexy.”

We even had a few choice words from last year’s fall production, saying that “the committed ensemble tackles McCormick’s muscular choreography with abandon—contorting, thrusting, pole dancing and dangling from the ceiling as if it was their last night on earth.” Well… apparently it wasn’t since they’re back for another season!

Shows take place at the Minetta Lane Theatre, located at 18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue in New York City. Performances are Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 5pm. For more information, visit www.CompanyXIV.com.

Here’s a first look at Cinderella:

Davon Rainey in Company XIV's 'Cinderella' (photo: Steven Trumon Gray via The Broadway Blog.)

Davon Rainey in Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Steven Trumon Gray via The Broadway Blog.)

Katrina Cunningham in Company XIV's 'Cinderella' (photo: Steven Trumon Gray via The Broadway Blog.)

Katrina Cunningham in Company XIV’s ‘Cinderella’ (photo: Steven Trumon Gray via The Broadway Blog.)

 

Review: Company XIV’s “Rococo Rouge”

September 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler gets a taste of 21st century Rococo from the innovative performance troupe Company XIV.

Company XIV's "Rococo Rouge" (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s “Rococo Rouge” (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Something naughty is happening on Lafayette Street these days. It began with Bridget Everett’s tits-to-the-wall performance in Rock Bottom, which opened at The Public Theatre last week. If you meander across the street to Colonnade Row, you’ll stumble across one of New York City’s great architectural gems—a series of Greek revival buildings erected in the early 19th century. And if you delve a bit deeper, you will discover Company XIV’s latest theatrical confection, Rococo Rouge. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Artistic Director Austin McCormick, Rococo Rouge is the latest installment from this “classically trained ban of theatrical libertines,” that last year brought us Nutcracker Rouge.

poster-Rococo Rouge-wNamed after the flamboyant and virile Louis XIV (who was also known as being a great patron of the arts), Company XIV’s eclectic band of performers pulls out all of the stops, incorporating aerial acts, live vocals and contemporary dance—all set against a fantastical backdrop created by Zane Pihlstrom (costume and set design), Jeanette Yew (lighting design) and Austin McCormick (sound design). For the most part, they succeed in creating a voluptuous and dynamic world that explores the themes of love and obsession.

Shelly Watson returns as the evening’s host, bringing her unique brand of chanteuse charisma to the evening. While she’s got pipes that could bring Louis XIV back from the grave, the improvised portions of the evening and her interaction with the audience falls flat and one wishes that she might crash Everett’s show across the street for a bit of “Down and Dirty 101.” That being said, she’s got a sparkle in her eye and delivers a funky high-art rendition of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” rap.

Other pop culture and classical references are woven throughout the evening, including a haunting rendition of “Youth” (delivered with vacant seduction by Katrina Cunningham with Rob Mastrianni on guitar) and Edith Piaf’s recording of “Le Bel Indifférent.” These juxtapositions create a nonlinear fabric from which McCormick and his artists weave a complex exploration of timeless themes centered on the heart.

The committed ensemble tackles McCormick’s muscular choreography with abandon—contorting, thrusting, pole dancing and dangling from the ceiling as if it was their last night on earth. The evening loses steam, through no fault of the performers, due to two unnecessary intermissions that truncate the evening’s emotional force. While the beverage menu says, “There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne,” (credited to Bette Davis), Company XIV is bubbling all on its own.

Rococo Rouge Presented by Company XIV
Colonnade Row, 428 Lafayette Street
Through November 2

Davon Rainey and Shelly Watson in "Rococo Rouge" (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Davon Rainey and Shelly Watson in “Rococo Rouge” (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand via The Broadway Blog.)

Cracking the Nut: 5 Can’t-Miss Holiday Theatrical Events

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler gathers some theatrical chestnuts for the holiday season.

"Nutcracker Rouge" presented by Company XIV and The Saint At Large. (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand)

“Nutcracker Rouge” presented by Company XIV and The Saint At Large. (photo: Phillip Van Nostrand)

How many times can you drag you or your loved ones to George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring dozens of leggy and bleach-toothed Rockettes? I admit… these are iconic New York experiences, and if you’ve never been to the Big Apple during the holidays, at least one of them should be on your to-do list, along with the tree at Rockefeller Center and the decorated windows along Fifth Avenue. But for those with a more adventurous (and occasionally twisted) take on the holiday season, consider one of these theatrical ventures that is sure to have you bellowing “Ho, Ho, Whoa?” in no time.

"Nutcracker Rouge" presented by Company XIV and the Saint At Large. (photo: Robert Zash)

“Nutcracker Rouge” presented by Company XIV and the Saint At Large. (photo: Robert Zash)

Nutcracker Rouge
For grown-ups only, this mischievous and somewhat loose interpretation of the beloved holiday classic gets cranked up a few notches thanks to the innovative choreography and circus antics from director/choreographer Austin McCormick. Merging dance, circus, cabaret and naughty theatrics, you’ll be have more than visions of sugar plums dancing in your head.

A stand-out performance by Laura Careless, who transforms from wide-eyed muse to a 21st century version of Gypsy Rose Lee is worth the ticket alone—along with a bevy of high-heeled boys in thongs.

Nutcracker Rouge
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane
Through January 5
Presented by Company XIV and The Saint At Large

Want a sneak peek?

Major Scales and Jinx Monsoon.

Major Scales and Jinx Monsoon.

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales: Unwrapped
Our favorite drag superstar returns with an all-new holiday special, featuring original songs, covers, comedic flair and drag sass that has catapulted actor Jerick Hoffer’s alter ego into sparkly stardom. The pair’s recent hit, The Vaudevillians, just ended a sold-out run at The Laurie Beechman Theater, so now is your chance to catch them in all of their holiday glory.

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales: Unwrapped
Laurie Beechman Theater
407 West 42nd Street
December 7 – 10  

Artwork by Alex Robinson

Artwork by Alex Robinson

A Very Special
Star Wars Minute
Star Wars Holiday Special
Special: Live!
That’s not a typo, just the quirky humor of co-hosts Alex Robinson and Pete the Retailer, who have been hosting the cult-worthy Star Wars Minute podcast over the last year. The duo will tackle the Star Wars Holiday Special, a 1978 TV broadcast, in a live show. Creator George Lucas reportedly said, “If I had the time and a hammer, I would track down every copy of that program and smash it.”

Parkside Lounge
317 East Houston Street
Wednesday, December 11, 7 p.m.
21 and over
Free plus 2-drink minimum

Take the jump for two more picks and bonus recommendations!

Read more…