Despite the wet snow on the ground, spring is upon us, which means a bounty of extraordinary performance experiences at The Boston Conservatory. This weekend’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, their major musical, rivaled the production I saw on Broadway. Every voice was terrific, every tap step sharp. Millie, played by the understudy, began the show with anxious wonder that actually fit the part well, but by the second act she was as confident and endearing as any Millie ought to be.
Beside the main stage productions, there are moving piano master’s recitals, student thesis productions in the Zack Box, and the incredible showcases for freshman, seniors and graduate students; a chance for every one of these talented performers can shine.
Not everything presented at BoCo is as accessible as Thoroughly Modern Millie. The Dance Division under the direction of Cathy Young grows more capable and confident every year, and they tackle complex works. Ballet is an art form that I need help in appreciating, so when my daughter Abby and I attended Winter. Dance! we stopped into the President’s reception beforehand to sample the terrific desserts and to hear Cathy Young introduce that evenings dances. She described Wake a world premiere choreographed by Robert Moses, as a series of moving images that evoke every meaning of the word.
As the lights came up on the group of sixteen women in depression era peasant dresses obscured behind a scrim, I sensed the dawn, albeit not a very cheerful one. They roused from sleep and once the men in work clothes and suspenders arrived things perked up; everyone displayed ‘excited latent possibilities’ and then ‘aroused conscious interest’ in each other, phrases I pulled directly from Merriam-Webster’s additional definitions of the term ‘wake’.
In the second movement a projected image of water slithering beneath the shadow of a large tree formed the backdrop for reverie. It reminded me that each of us forms a wake, initiated by our actions. It trails behind us in a distorted reflection. It can merge seamlessly with others or cause turbulence. Our wake is the aftermath that flows from whatever we do. Once unleashed, we cannot control its impact.
Finally, of course, we have the wake, the formal standing over the dead, keeping watch to ensure safe passage from this world to the next. The women moved graciously over the men as they landed, one by one, in a row of silent corpses. Towards the end they jerked, sudden and quick, before reclining into eternal slumber. Was it their souls rising out of their bodies to some eternal reward, or the last gasp of a life yet fulfilled? Wake did not offer us the answer. Instead, it prompted a riddle from me. ‘What single word describes something we do every day, then trails behind us, and stands above us after we die?
Whether you seek to contemplate the riddles of life or just want the thrill of incredible tapping feet, get yourself to The Boston Conservatory this spring and let these gifted performers move you. They are awake with energy and talent. Every way that they touch us nourishes and enriches.
Note: You can subscribe to a weekly calender of Boston Conservatory events at http://www.bostonconservatory.edu. Enjoy!