At an informal talk on Monday where Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Patti LuPone, and Wendy Whelan discussed the new production of The Seven Deadly Sins, Ms. LuPone made a point of saying that she had brought along her own sound guy who had miked and mixed her voice in theaters all over the country and really knew how to make her sound her best. Unfortunately at the world premiere Wednesday night, the miking and mixing of Ms. LuPone's voice was the big letdown of the new production. It seemed like Haglund was the only person in his row in the theater who had read the lyrics beforehand, because no one else could understand enough of what Ms. LuPone sang to understand what was going on. This was not a problem that carried over to the wonderful singing performances of Raymond Jarmillo-McLeod, Eric Michael Gillet, Kevin Earley, or Andrew Stenson. Their voices were clear and understandable. Hopefully, this problem will be ironed out by tomorrow night. After all, the theater serves opera pretty well. It should be able to serve Ms. LuPone's vibrant voice, too.
Setting aside that complaint, Haglund thought that The Seven Deadly Sins was a terrific little "ballet chanté" as the Playbill called it. Song was dominant to dance – which, by the way, was less ballet and more theater-oriented. Haglund understands that some considered this cause to complain, but he thought that Lynn Taylor-Corbett hit a bullseye with respect to combining the two - more so than any of the Tharp Broadway productions, which Haglund also found enjoyable even though they were quite a bit more noisy and raucous.
The Seven Deadly Sins with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht as translated by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman is the story of Anna, whose personality is split into Anna 1 (down to earth, practical) and Anna 2 (impulsive, less resistant to temptations) who embarks on a seven year journey through seven U.S. states to raise money so her family in Louisiana can acquire a nice house. Along the journey she is faced with the seven deadly sins - sloth, pride, anger, gluttony, lust, greed, and envy - which both de-rail her and propel her toward her goal. In this production, Anna 1 was sung by Patti LuPone while Anna 2 was danced by Wendy Whelan.
Haglund thought that Wendy broke through to a new level of artistry last night. She looked positively hungry for this type of theatrical dance opportunity which enabled her to step outside of the angular, manipulative choreography that has defined her career. No pointe shoes. No tight bun at the back of her head. No black leotard with waist-cinching belt. Instead, it was a glowing Wendy with shining hair loose and wavy who wore an array of costumes from a modest 1950's style dress to some old fashioned undergarments to some sizzling little number that those sinning gentlemen could ease her out of. The choreography was not trick-infested but it had Ms. Taylor-Corbett's signature energy and intelligent composition. As Haglund said, the song dominated the dance, and the dance was there for the purpose of interpreting the song. There was less in the way of dance and choreography than one usually sees at NYCB but Haglund was pleased that the company stepped out of its comfort zone and dabbled in something more commonly seen at the Lincoln Center Theater.
Andrew Scordato led the Shadows in an athletic Sloth section. Sara Mearns and Justin Peck were featured in a saucy, kinetic dance in the Anger section. Craig Hall and Wendy had a dramatic and tender episode in the Lust section. Vincent Paradiso and Giovanni Villalobos as the Count and the Senator had some comedic choreography in the Greed section. The corps de ballet as Shadows, Cabaret Dancers, Cabaret Johns, Maids, Butlers and other assorted roles were wonderful and fully committed to their characters.
And last but not least, Patti LuPone brought the brightness of Broadway to this brief ballet. She mentioned on Monday how she had once been an usher in the 4th Ring and how performing on this theater's stage was a special treat for her. But for the lousy sound engineering, it would have been a special treat for us, too. She was an engaging Anna 1 and it was pretty clear that the dancers were having a ball performing on the stage with her.
Vienna Waltzes completed the program. Everyone danced and looked elegant, but the highlight was Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in the Fruhlingsstimmen section, the only one requiring pointe shoes, in which Megan so expertly accelerated her chaine turns as the waltz accelerated. With Megan, sometimes you don't realize the incredible feats of her feets until she's gone on to the next eight counts, and then you have to ask yourself "Did I just see what I think I saw?" Rachel Rutherford & Jared Angle, Ana Sophia Scheller & Adam Hendrickson, Jenifer Ringer & Ask La Cour, Maria Kowroski & Charles Askegard, and a corps of 40 men and women swirled and waltzed in front of the mirrored set to great effect. All very beautiful, but all the Strauss music tends to make Haglund thirsty for champagne.
It all seemed like a very successful gala evening. Sarah Jessica Parker looked lovely in a conservative sort of way. What an unexpected treat to see the beautiful Alessandra Ferri at the theater; she's still ballet royalty in Haglund's book and probably always will be. Allegra Kent looked half her age and seemed excited to be there.
Haglund bestows this little sinful black Pump Bump Award to Wendy Whelan for her terrific performance in The Seven Deadly Sins.