How do you define a classic? A work of art that stands the test of time? That speaks across the ages? That stays fresh despite the passage of decades and shifting cultural trends?
Coming up in early 2017, local arts organizations are offering a chance to revisit several classic works, and see newer offerings based on popular classics.
In February the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) will regale us with Cendrillion, a full-length ballet based on Cinderella. This transformational story of a downtrodden girl who is abused by her stepfamily, then catches the fancy of a prince at a palace ball, is rooted in our collective unconscious and can be traced back to ancient Egyptian folklore. The Middle East and Asia have versions of this romantic plot as well. Charles Perrault first wrote this classic fairytale in French in the 17th century, and the German Brothers Grimm later included it in their folktale collection. The tale has inspired a Broadway musical, many movies, and an enduring Italian opera, La Cenerentola.
PNB’s production of Cendrillion marks the Seattle premiere of this 1999 work by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. Under the direction of the Monte-Carlo artists who created the original work, the ballet features PNB dancers, ravishing costumes and striking scenery. In addition to the regular performances, one also can attend the dress rehearsal February 2, as well as pre- and post-performance discussions.
Cendrillion runs Feb. 3–12 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St, Seattle (206.441.2424; mccawhall.com).
A historic and artistic triumph, Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series will be on display at Seattle Art Museum this winter in honor of the Lawrence centenary. This enthralling sequence of 60 vivid, color-enriched paintings in the style of “dynamic cubism” chronicles the epic migration of black Americans from the rural South to the urban North in the years between World War I and World War II.
Lawrence, who died in 2000, was one of the first African-American painters to receive major national and international recognition. He was also an important influence on Seattle’s cultural life during the many years he lived here with his artist wife Gwendolyn Lawrence and taught at the University of Washington. This is a rare chance to view what many critics consider his greatest achievement.
The Migration Series will be on exhibit Jan. 21–April 23 at Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, Seattle (206.625.8900; seattleartmuseum.org).
For fans of Broadway musical comedy, a classic that deserves another look is coming to 5th Avenue Theatre soon. The Pajama Game was a big, breezy hit when it debuted on Broadway in 1954, and it has been revived on the Great White Way twice since then. But, surprisingly, this is the first time the 5th Avenue has tackled it.
The show’s delightful score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (the pair who also brought us Damn Yankees) spun off some song standards, including the poignant ballad “Hey There.” It also introduced a beguiling romance in what is probably the only Broadway musical about a labor strike. Sparks fly in a pajama factory when the female union representative (played by local favorite Billie Wildrick) and the plant manager who is determined to thwart the strike she’s spearheading can’t resist each other’s charms.
Resident 5th Avenue director Bill Berry, a whiz at refreshing such golden Broadway oldies as Wonderful Town and West Side Story, will stage the revival.
The Pajama Game plays Feb. 9–March 5 at 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 5th Ave, Seattle (206.625.1900; 5thavenue.org).
Misha Berson writes about the arts for The Seattle Times and many other publications, and is the author of four books, including Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination (Applause/Hal Leonard).