This was one of the 1st of many wonderful reviews of Playball, enjoy.
My Best- The Traveling Ballet Master
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000
“BASEBALL COMEDY THE CROWD-PLEASING CLOSER IN ECLECTIC PROGRAM”
Monday, September 25, 2000
By WILMA SALISBURY
THE PLAIN DEALER – Cleveland,Ohio
There are plenty of parallels between the body language of baseball and the technique of classical ballet. The shortstop performs a pirouette when he turns a double play. The outfielder does a grand jete when he runs and jumps to catch a fly ball. The pitcher ends his delivery in a modified arabesque. A bang-bang play at home plate incorporates the tricky sliding steps of neoclassical choreography.
Choreographers with a sense of humor have fun turning baseball into ballet. Moses Pendleton’s “Baseball” stars a human baseball who gets into a Freudian relationship with a bat and a glove. Lisa de Ribere’s “The Mighty Casey” features a rogue’s gallery of colorful characters lifted from the field of green. This season, Philadelphia choreographer Christopher Fleming jumps on the baseball bandwagon with “Play Ball,” a comedy based on an imaginary exhibition game between league-leading male and female teams of the 1940s.
The lively nine-inning dance, co-commissioned by Dayton Ballet and Ohio Ballet, premiered last spring in Dayton. Ohio Ballet took its first crack at the fun-filled piece in its season opener Saturday at the Akron Civic Theatre. The performance was a winner for both teams: the Cleveland Bulls and the Akron Dolls.
Because Ohio Ballet has only 16 dancers on its roster, the teams drafted a few players from minor-league franchises at the University of Akron and the Dance Institute. Extras also portrayed hawkers who threw bags of popcorn to the crowd and fans who sat in onstage bleachers and produced umbrellas when the game was rained out in the ninth inning.
Although the battle of the sexes ended in a tie, the Dolls looked like the superior team. Sexy flirts in short white uniforms, blue knee socks and black toe shoes, they made sassy gestures, rolled their hips and manipulated their bats like weapons. Xochitl Tejeda de Cerda was darling as the temperamental manager who kicked the dirt in rage. Jesica Salomon was the feisty pitcher who overmatched the hapless Bulls batters.
The Bulls’ teamwork was a little ragged, and they needed to get together on some of their signals. But the energetic players benefited from the hilarious personality of Brian Murphy as the goofy outfielder-skipper who was distracted by a gorgeous fan, a dream girl gracefully portrayed by Anitra Nurnberger.
Each inning was played to the taped accompaniment of ballet or opera music that heightened the humor of sequences such as the base-stealers waltz (“Swan Lake”) and the pitcher’s duel (“Carmen”). Guest artist Marc Ozanich was a hoot as the hated umpire. Audience members did their part by standing up for “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the seventh-inning stretch.
Covering all the bases, a cute crowd-pleaser, “Play Ball” provided an upbeat finale to a cover-all-the-bases repertory program. The evening opened with the low-key premiere of artistic director Jeffrey Graham Hughes’ “Quest,” a contrived and inconsequential baroque ballet starring Tejeda de Cerda and balletmistress Pamela Reyman as lyrical sisters searching for something elusive. The centerpiece was an emotional revival of founding artistic director Heinz Poll’s “Elegiac Song.” A dark evocation of human suffering, the expressionistic piece featured Amy Hayes as the impassioned central figure who joins other grieving women veiled in black after she sees the beloved man in her life become a soldier and march off to war.
The oddly eclectic program will be repeated at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Ohio Theatre in Playhouse Square.
©2000 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.