RPM Holiday Program | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

RPM Holiday Program 

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You can't tell the players without a scorecard, folks--now that the ballet scene in Chicago is about as mixed-up as it can be. But you should know that one of Ballet Chicago's brightest stars, former resident choreographer Gordon Peirce Schmidt, has started his own company, RPM Productions, with his composer-brother Kimberly Schmidt and designer Jeff Bauer, and that as part of Dance Chicago '95 they're performing three holiday pieces, two old and one brand-new. "Dance in the Season" features the 1994 ballet Gift of the Magi, based on the O. Henry story of the same name; the leads will be danced this time around by guest artists, American Ballet Theatre principals Guillaume Graffin and Sandra Brown. I'm curious to see what two larger-than-life stars will do with this story of tender, youthful married passion. Also on the bill is the 1993 In a Nutshell: this cracked version of The Nutcracker, set to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's Nutcracker Suite, has been updated to the 20th century--it begins at a holiday office party gone bad, where the Drosselmeyer figure is a comic boss-from-hell. But it's not as "mature" as it may sound--my daughter loved this one, with its quick-changing scenes and bright colors. The new dance, Festival of Carols, is set to Benjamin Britten music, with lyrics from medieval songs; it's to be performed entirely by women, with a live harpist and a chorus of 12. All choreography is by Schmidt, who has a knack for dancing at once lyrical, dramatic, and inviting. Wednesday at 2 and 8; Thursday at 7:30 (a company benefit); next Friday, December 1, at 8; and next Saturday, December 2, at 2 and 8. At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; $20. Call 902-1500 for individual tickets, 935-6860 for group sales and general information, 275-4921 for info on the gala benefit.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peirce Schmidt.

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