Little Dancer, a ballet-based musical directed by Susan Stroman, is running until Sunday at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. The musical tells the tale of Marie, dancer who inspired the artist Edgar Degas. The dancer is played by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Tiler Peck as a youth, Rebecca Luker as an adult and weaves ballet throughout the plot. Here are a few reviews of the musical:
The musical proposes that Marie is an outstanding talent who’s devoted to dance, a female Billy Elliot for whom dance is the path out of the gutter and into self-fulfillment. Ms. Peck makes the case outstandingly well. She speaks, sings, acts, dances — all with admirable naturalness and no apparent effort. It’s likely that when Ms. Peck returns to full-time ballet, she’ll be an enriched artist — not least in terms of the keen attention she pays to others onstage and the way she controls the many facets (serious/funny, naïve/worldly) of each scene.
Yet the phrases of Ms. Stroman’s Paris Opera Ballet choreography never become poetic. And a climactic, all-dance nightmare for the young Marie is stock stuff, borrowed from the Broadway and Hollywood psychodramas of the mid-20th century.
In the big ballet numbers, Ms. Stroman’s choreography reveals Ms. Peck’s crystalline technique and the effervescence she brings to even the simplest of steps.
Naturally, Ms. Peck is less assured as an actor and singer. She brings a bright, feisty energy to the role; the teasing, taunting rapport between young Marie and Degas has something of the loving exasperation that marks the relationship between Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.”
She’s never less than a lovely and inviting presence onstage. But she must carry the weight of the drama on her slender shoulders, a challenge that she cannot comfortably meet, particularly when Marie’s life begins to unravel, as her ballet career is cut brutally short
There are so many ways in which “Little Dancer,” finishing its world-premiere run at the Kennedy Center this week, is a corker. It features the ravishing Tiler Peck of New York City Ballet as Degas’s young model, Marie van Goethem, for one thing. The clear, open style of her dancing is a marvel, particularly the way she lingers at the height of her movements, conveying all the power and ease, authority and transcendence of a great star.
In the age of Disney and Spiderman, “Little Dancer” is a musical that’s about something—in fact, several things, that matter. The musical, a radically and beautifully imaginative example of the form, tells the tale of a wispy, but gritty, adolescent, one-step-from-the-gutter aspiring ballerina in the La Belle Epoch Paris Opera Company who inspired Impressionist painter and sculptor Eduard Degas to create one of his most enduring works, the sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” (now the center of a mini-exhibition at the National Gallery of Art).
Wall Street Journal art crtitics Pia Catton and Robert Greskovic discuss the musical in a WSJ podcast. Robert thinks that although the ballet segments are cleanly done, it lacks noteworthy choreography.