The majestic Alps, the iconic songs, the Vogueing Mother Superior clad in a pair of Adidas as she warbles "Climb Every Mountain"... New York choreographer Doug Elkins creates a joyful, jaw-dropping remix of The Sound of Music, setting everything from ballet to b-boy moves to the original Rodgers & Hammerstein film score in his truly exceptional work Fraulein Maria. White Bird
presents his company, Doug Elkins & Friends,
performing the rollicking piece at Portland's Newmark Theatre this Thursday through Saturday. That means there's one more night to see it
--there's still tickets left so I suggest that if you have any affinity for great dancing or Julie Andrews, or--even better--think you don't
like contemporary dance but love musicals, grab a seat (scroll down for a link to tix).
Created in bits and pieces since 2006 (the full length version Portlanders enjoy debuted in 2008), Fraulein Maria cleverly deconstructs the Von Trapp legend without killing the spirit that has made it a classic for five decades: Lisel is now a crotch-smelling 6'1" red-headed man in a pink dress
(played with coquettish moxie and impressive technique by Portland Jefferson Dancers alum John Sorenson-Jolink). There are three Marias, one played by a Puerto Rican guy, all in turns spunky, demure and terrified.
The nuns are clad in hoodies and incorporate pelvic thrusts into their prayer routines while "Edelweiss" is the soundtrack for an unsettling park bench slapstick routine for Elkins and company co-director Michael Preston that ends with Hitler taking over Austria. And the Von Trapp children (little Gretl played at one point by tall, salt and pepper bearded Preston in blonde braids and puppet hands) have learned an insane vocabulary of contemporary ballet and hip hop moves along with four part harmony.
This is not a revival or a reproduction of the R&H show. Elkins rightly explains that it's a "remix," using the example of Jay-Z sampling "Hard Knock Life" from the musical Annie to illuminate ghetto life to explain his own mindset.
"It all counts," he told the audience during a short Q&A immediately after the performance. But it is also a love letter to the first musical that New Yorker Elkins, who practiced kung fu, Capoeira
and toured as a b-boy before incorporating modern and ballet in his work, saw as a kid in New York. "I was interested in the idea of 'Maria-ness.'... Who is this woman? This woman who comes to peoples' homes and heals dysfunction?" he says giggling, remembering his reaction after seeing both Music
and Mary Poppins
. "And when is she coming to our house?"
Regardless of the thought process behind the work, what comes through most clearly on the floor is a sense of happiness and delight in the act of dancing itself.
Elkins' choreography is a liquid mix of styles, morphing effortlessly from gorgeous arabesques and leaps to pop-n-lock isolations--all fluttering by at such a fast pace that it's difficult to tear your eyes away from the stage. The majority of the gifted company is on call for the crescendo of "Do-Re-Me"--where the Marias whirl, spin and grind; the children slip, slide and leap in an every-building crescendo of movement that cements everything that is good and wonderful about dance itself. To spy Doug Elkins & Friends reinterpret this beloved chestnut is to witness something unique and beautiful beginning. And, as Maria always tells us, that's a very good place to start.
GO, SERIOUSLY: Fraulein Maria
at the Newmark Theatre
, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, 1111 SW Broadway., 248-4335. 7:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 15. $27.50-$68.50. Tickets at Ticketmaster
IMAGES: Photos by Chris Roesing/Doug Elkins & Friends'
Fraulein Maria. Top photo: John Sorenson-Jolink, Therman Christopher as Lisel and Rolf in the Thursday, Jan. 13 performance of
Fraulein Maria at Portland's Newmark Theatre. Middle photo: Cori Marquis, Donnell Oakley, Joshua Palmer, Kellie Ann Lynch in "Do-Re-Me." Bottom photo: "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" performed by Deborah Lohse, Hilary Brown, John Sorensen-Jolink.