Dolls give familiar tales a playful twist

  • Article by: CAROLINE PALMER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2012 - 10:51 AM

Little Red Riding Hood meets Goldilocks on the way to Grandma's house, and the rest is up to Ballet of the Dolls in a family-friendly, fairy-tale mash-up.

Heather Cadigan as Red Riding Hood at Ballet of the Dolls.

Karma plays a consistent role in fairy tales. If you do something naughty, like eating a baby bear's porridge and breaking its chair, the papa and mama bear might come after you. Or, let's say you're a big bad wolf who devours grandma. Chances are there's an unhappy ending in your future, courtesy of a hunter. The lesson for kids is clear: Bad decisions have serious consequences.

It was a good choice, however, for Myron Johnson and Ballet of the Dolls to mash up two familiar children's stories, "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Goldilocks." This family-friendly and unusually spare production (for the Dolls, that is) skips merrily along into a forest filled with misadventure. The pace could use some tightening up in spots -- it's two chase scenes too long -- and there are a couple of sinister moments worthy of the Brothers Grimm that might give some youngsters a tiny fright, but overall this show should impress the playground set.

Heather Cadigan plays Little Red Riding Hood with a mix of light confidence and underlying anxiety in her dancing. After all, the journey to Grandma is through the woods, where unexpected things happen -- like encountering Goldilocks (Lisa Conlin) inexplicably locked in a cage. Perhaps this is for good reason: Once freed the girl proves she's a troublemaker by stealing Red's basket, jumping around like a hellion and disappearing into the woods, seemingly channeling Bugs Bunny-style mischief while wearing Pippi Longstocking tights and a blonde wig. From this moment, the girls' stories are intertwined.

Enter Bryan Gerber as the wolf, although his costume seems more reminiscent of "Cats." Still, he leaps and lurks like a beast up to no good. And then there are the three bears (Grant Whittaker, Vance Holmes and Rebecca Abroe) who project a majestic air with their shambling moves, gentle ursine faces, elegant attire and great fringey tufts of fur. Their shocked response to Goldilocks' misdeeds is sweetly touching. Whittaker later reappears as Grandma, earning laughs as he shakes and shudders with Gerber in teeth-baring pursuit.

As always, Johnson uses music well, in this show taking a classical route with selections from Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Vivaldi, among others. The compositions frame the largely lyrical moves while allowing space for playful moments and old-fashioned storytelling.

Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.

  • BALLET OF THE DOLLS

    What: "Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks"

    When: 2 p.m. Sat. & Sun.; also 7 p.m. Feb. 25, 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. Feb. 26 and 2 p.m. Feb. 27.

    Where: Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE., Mpls.

    Tickets: $25 ($15 for students 13-18 and $12 for children 12 and under), 612-436-1129 or www.ritzdolls.com.

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