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Jennifer Wesnousky
Performance Reviews
Symphony Space
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

The Christmas Revels - A Celebration of The Winter Solstice - Traditional and Ritual Dances, Carols, Processionals and Drama

by Jennifer Wesnousky
December 10, 2006
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
(212) 864-1414
The program for The Christmas Revels 2006 dedicated this year's shows to its founder, John "Jack" Langstaff, whose legacy, despite passing away last December shortly before his eighty-fifth birthday, continues to burn brightly in its thirty-sixth year of performances in ten cities nationwide. Although the exact material and storyline for the Revels varies over time, the underlying themes of the Holiday Season's unity through diversity, the "magic and medicine of music" and the "beauty of community in which each hand clasps the next and each voice joins the whole" were apparent not only in the spirited performance of a huge ensemble cast of nearly one-hundred players, but also by the audience's enthusiastic and participatory response.

This year's Revels utilized the classic Russian folktale, "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship," in which the story's "simple" and "foolish" hero must perform seemingly impossible tasks to win the hand of the Tsar's daughter as its vehicle for storytelling, acting, song and dance. Although, as indicated by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Cynthia Shaw, such countries as Russia, Georgia, The Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Moravia and Slovakia, whose customs, songs and dances the performance shared, often "barely speak to each other in real life," as destinations on the "Fool's" journey they shared both the stage and the audiences' hearts. Both audience and cast members ranged from the very young to the very old, representing a wide variety of ethnicities and religions as well.

Bedecked in elaborate, brightly colored, embroidered costumes compiled by Deborah Krevor, the Krasnaya Kliukva Chorus harmonized pleasingly on such traditional songs such as the Georgian drinking song, "Gandagan (To and Fro)," the Bulgarian fertility song, "Dilmano, Dilbero," and Rachmanioff's "Bogoroditsye Dyevo (Ave Maria)," among many others while the Selyonaya Selyodka Children displayed confidence and professionalism beyond their young years during several charmingly choreographed songs. Despite the fact that most of the evening's carols were sung in their indigenous tongues, the performers' confident, relaxed delivery kept the audience feeling as if they were following every word. The corporal and facial expressiveness of American Sign Language interpreters Gerald Small and Pamela Mitchell, who signed the show in its entirety, was an additional joy to behold.

Standout cast members included the multi-talented Brian Foley as the "Fool" whose adventures the Revels chronicled. His theatrically and vocally superb performance showcased not only a Broadway caliber solo during "Gandagan" that kept the audience members yearning to hear more, but also his excellent skills as a comedic actor, mime and even expert juggler. Other memorable players included Yelena Shmuelenson, whose demeanor was comfortingly pleasant as the Storyteller and Peter Johnson as the difficult-to-please yet always entertaining Tsar.

While much of the evening's dancing consisted of simple folkloric-inspired movement and changes of formation to effectively accent its choral pieces, professional dance groups such as the Syzokryli Ukrainian Dancers, the Greenwich Morris Men (including several performers from Lord of the Dance) and the Bosilek Bulgarian Folk Dance Ensemble made their eclectic marks. Consisting of all male, traditional Ukrainian dancers, the particularly crowd-pleasing Syzokryli Dance Ensemble displayed increased agility and ability with dance. While their first piece, "Povzunets" showcased their virile strength by requiring them to dance bent-kneed, "as close to the ground as possible," they later delighted the audience with their airborne toe touches and astoundingly high kicks.

Following briefings by the Mistress of Ceremonies at the beginning of the show and intermission, the remarkably unselfconscious audience seemed thrilled to sing along with the cast, who even recruited some of them to join in their procession. Sung by all of the Revels cast members as well as the audience, Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace) felt particularly poignant.

While an audience show of hands indicated that nearly half of the crowd consisted of newcomers, many from the other half could be heard boasting about the number of years they had attended the Revels. Whether enjoying the music of the Modern Brass Quartet that accompanied the evening's song and dance, delighting in the underdog's triumph upon winning the hand- and heart- of his princess against all odds or simply enjoying the diversity and quality of the evening's many performers, the charm, passion and unity of the players and their audience came off gracefully, comically and joyously for everyone at this highly recommendable holiday jewel.




STORYTELLER: Yelena Shmuelenson
TSAR: Peter Johnson
TSAREVNA: Alicia St. Louis
MESSENGERS: Sam Lopresti, Alan Briones
FATHER: Michael Burke
MOTHER: Marcia Picciotto
OLD MAN: Tom Fenaughty
LISTENER: Matthew Duncan
SWIFT GOER: Tim Kondrat
EATER: M. Dwayne Herron
WOOD CARRIER: Danielle Parsakos
PATRIARCH: Michael Palan
DR. ZHIVAGO: Tim Kondrat

SOLOISTS: Carol Freeman, William Minifie

SYZORKRYLI UKRAINIAN DANCERS: Andrij Cybyk (Choreographer), Lev Iwashko, Yarko Dobriansky, Roman Lewkowicz, Zenon Borys, Yan Khmel (bayan)

BOSILEK BULGARIAN FOK DANCE ENSEMBLE: Catherine Springer (Choreographer), Cipora Blitz, Emily Geller, Rebecca Summerour, Kristina Vaskys

THE KRASNAYA KLIUKVA: Alexandra Aitken, Herbert Bennett, Michael Burke, Carola Burroughs, Tom Fenaughty, Pat Hornak, M. Dwayne Herron, Melissa M. Kelly, Sandi Leibowitz, Alicia St. Louis, Michael Palan, Danielle Patsakos, Nancy Petaja, Marcia Picciotto, Robert Rodriguez, Cynthia Shaw, Sofiya Shmuelenson, Yelena Shmuelenson, Nancy Moore Simpson, Tony Soll, Maribeth Thueson, Hsin Wang, Jessica Wiscovitch, Nancy Wright

TEEN MEMBERS OF KRASNAYA KLIUKVA: Deema Aitken, Tara-Elizabeth Bowler, Alan Briones, Kate Gilpin, Sam Lopresti, Lily Rutler, Ian Terry

SELYONAYA SELYODKA CHILDREN: Claire Adams, Grace Adams, Jessica Aitken, Eleanor Bennett, Jessica Chase, Chloe Hyman, Skye Lewis, Erin Moriarty, Nicole Lee Murphy, Stephanie Queiroz, Eugene Romanchuk, Olivia Rutler, Conor Ryan, Tohar Scheininger

Peter Stan (Accordion), Andriy Milavsky (Clarinet), Relu Piculeate (Violin), Sprocket Royer (Bass), Betsy Blackly (Percussion)

MODERN BRASS QUARTET: Thomas Verchor, Jeffrey Venho (Trumpets), Debbie Schmidt (French Horn), Dale Turk (Trombone), Betsy Blachly (Percussion)

GREENWICH MORRIS MEN: Stephen Corsin, Peter Dunleavy*, Jerome Epstein**, Paul Friedman**, Alan Friend**, Gio Gaynor*, Efraim Kohn, Arthur Ministeri**, David Simonoff

* Lord of the Dance performers
** Musicians

ASL INTERPRETERS: Gerald Small, Pamela Mitchell

Director: Scott Shattuck
Music Director: Cynthia Shaw
Dance Choreographer: Cathie Springer
Costume Designer: Deborah Krevor
Assistant Director: Rebekah Kondrat
Assistant Costume Designer: Anne F. Murphy
Makeup Designer: Jean Elizabeth Krevor
Set Designer: H. Peet Foster
Lighting Designer: John Michael Deegan
Props Designer: Karen Loccisano

Producer: Nancy Petaja
Production Manager: Bryan M. Hart
Stage Manager: Rebekah Kondrat
Assistant Stage Managers: Carol A. Mahoney, Jilian Coneys
Costume Assistants: Jaqueline Kapaj, Carol E. Smith, Jean Elizabeth Krevor
Wardrobe Mistress: Anne F. Murphy
Marketing Manager: Paula Bartel
Concession Coordinator: Nancy Boyd
Publicist: Audrey Ross Publicity
Flyer/Poster/Website Design: Pat Jennetti, Mat Doyle
Flyer Printing: Conkur Productions
Mail House: JB Direct
Program Design: Abigail Sturges
Program Printing: Nadelstein Press
Web Masters: David Somonoff, Ken Bongort
Costume Supplier: Pierre Neville of Mandala, Catherine Springer
Set Shop: Cigar Box Studios
Folklore Consultant: Catherine Springer

BACKSTAGE REVELERS: Jim Bilimoria, Chris Blank, Frances Boyd, Michael Burke, J. Martha Davey, Maddy DeLeon, Jonathan Fluck, Suzanne Ford, Bill and Lorraine Graves, Bea Huppert, Clare Kagel, Estrelle Kettleson, Mitchell Krevor, Sr., Caroline Litwinski, Hara Reiser, Al Smith, Sol Weber, Ralph Zelman
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