En Face

"Peter & the Wolf" – a collaboration for all ages!

Peter and the WolfMYSO musicians demonstrate their instruments to students.

I just watched the opening show of Peter & the Wolf, performed for 200 adorable children from Milwaukee College Prep. This show illustrates so beautifully why the arts are transformative, educational and inclusive. With the exception of Peter, played by Company member Barry Molina, this is an all student production – with MYSO’s top-notch orchestra, First Stage’s creative actors, and our own Milwaukee Ballet Academy students who leap and twirl and soar around the set. The Bird is danced by Jennifer Hackbarth, The Cat danced by Claire Buehler, The Wolf danced by Lizzie Tripp, and The Duck is shared by Ahna Lipchik and Aviah Stillman, who collectively make for an incredibly strong ensemble – even speaking lines and interacting with the audience. Of course, Barry Molina (one of my favorites) is a rambunctious, brave, bursting-with-energy Peter! Michael Pink made some tweaks and improvements to the show, giving the dancers more opportunities to directly engage the audience who sit on the floor, practically onstage. The Academy students look very strong and the costumes are so inventive that it’s fun to see how each dancer interprets their role.

The show is narrated in English and in Spanish and also includes American Sign Language.  Prokofiev’s score is designed to teach children how to recognize musical themes and the dancing brings the characters a rich and layered interpretation.  There are plenty of surprises for the little ones – a sneaky entrance by the Wolf, a large looming Grandpa whose constant question of, “What then, Peter?  What then, eh?” is perfectly delivered and a set that all of the characters pop in and out of, climb on and skip through as they tell the story.

This is the second time these four organizations have come together to produce this show and it will run this weekend and next weekend.  It is designed for young children, but everyone will enjoy watching how all of these young artists excel at their own unique talents.  Right now, I’m sitting in the upper common area at MYAC between student matinees watching the cast of students interacting with each other.  It’s nice to see that there isn’t a ballet table, a MYSO table and a First Stage table; they are all hanging out with each other and have no doubt made new friends and connections.

Come see the show and bring your family – it’s less than an hour long but packed full of fun!  Here’s the synopsis:

Sergei Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF is a composition written for symphonic and spoken word performance. Created in 1936 for his own son, Prokofiev has given us a most charming tale of a young boy’s adventures in the meadow behind his grandfather’s house that both tells a story and cleverly teaches children about recognizing musical themes.

Peter is a young boy who lives with his grandfather in the Russian countryside. He is a bit rambunctious and certainly doesn’t listen to his grandfather’s advice – to lock the gate and stay inside! Well, that’s no fun! So one day, while playing in the meadow, he leaves the gate open to let a duck loose for a swim in the pond. While Peter chats and argues with a little bird, his cat sneaks out and is on the prowl. Luckily, Peter sees this, warns the bird and both the duck and the bird are safe.

Grandfather is not happy about this. What if a wolf were to find them? Peter is told to go inside and to lock the gate. As if on cue, a wolf does appear! The agile cat escapes into a tree, but the duck isn’t so lucky. The wolf swallows him whole!

Peter is not going to give up so easily and let this wolf feast on his animal friends. He concocts a plan to string the wolf up on the tree with the help of the daring bird. Together, they capture the wolf and hang him up by his tail. Some hunters, who have also had their eyes on the wolf, come by and prepare for their own attack. Peter won’t hear of it though. He announces that they will take him to the zoo, much to the hunters’ and his grandfather’s chagrin. All Grandfather can mutter to himself is, “What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?”

On the way there, guess what they heard? A quack, quack, quacking coming from the belly of that big, bad wolf!

Alyson Chavez
Director of Community Outreach