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No, make that a “perfect 10” woofs for Palo Alto Players’ production of the wacky, irreverent and totally side-splitting “Young Frankenstein,” careening riotously through May 11 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. (It requires seeing the show to understand why it’s graded in doggie barks.). There’s just no stopping this Mel Brooks-Thomas Meehan creation. They turned Brooks’ 1974 movie into a musical in 2007, just as they had done in 2001 with his 1968 film, “The Producers.”.
But what director Patrick Klein and his inspired production team did with this version is make it an exuberant funfest for the eyes and ears, There’s so much to see — and so many clever Brooks-written lines to hear — it might be worth going twice, It’s so good that it’s difficult to single out certain performers or specific scenes and songs, Yes, at more than 2½ hours (plus intermission), it runs long, but there are only a few times when the audience’s attention will lag, And when a blah scene or mediocre song happens, there’s still so much to look at thanks to the terrifically versatile stage settings that are the artistry of set designer Kuo-Hao Lo and the imaginative costumes designed by Shannon Maxham (and sewn by pointe shoe width chart a slew of volunteers)..
As Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“Frankensteen,” he protests, mostly unsuccessfully), ruddy-complexioned Steven Ennis effortlessly slips into the persona of the dean of anatomy at a distinguished New York university: The Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine. (Catch the Brooks humor there?) Ennis is a joy to watch: By turn serious scientist, love (sometimes lust)-struck male, compassionate castle owner — he’s all that. And watch for his impeccable comic timing. Sometimes he waits … and waits (all the while scrunching up his face hilariously) until he bursts forth with his line. Genius.
Ennis’ mobile face just melts as he sees (and caresses) the lovely figure of his new lab assistant (an eminently watchable Jessica Whittemore), Whittemore is more than a triple-threat actress, Imagine a role calling for a young, pointe shoe width chart beauteous woman, with a curvy figure — who can also yodel (very well!), sing, dance and do the splits, She does all that and much more, Save for the first scene at the New York medical school, all the action takes place in 1934 in Transylvania, where Dr, Frankenstein has inherited his grandfather’s castle, located in a quaint village called Transylvania Heights, That’s about as much of the story as will be useful to know before attending a performance, Well, that and the fact that Brooks’ inspiration for writing the film and subsequent musical was to parody the horror film genre in general and two 1930s Frankenstein pictures in particular..
It’s not an exaggeration to say that nearly every lead actor is a special gem, each in his or her own way. As Igor (“It’s pronounced ‘Eye-gore,'” he stresses), the hunchback whose hump moves around, Joey McDaniel is a revelation. He tiptoes across stage, making impish faces while earnestly conniving to get the newly arrived Dr. Frankenstein to follow in his scientist grandfather’s footsteps and create a monster. As Frederick’s ‘touch-me-not’ fiancée Elizabeth, Lindsay Stark seems too aloof in Act 1 as she alternately entices, then disdains his advances. But when she roars into Act 2 (catching Frederick and the lusty Inga atop a table high overhead looking all disheveled and covered with a sheet), she shows her vulnerability. Later she completely brings down the house with her raunchy “Deep Love” number after being seduced by the monster (a very tall, very green, authentically scary-looking Michael D. Reed). Reed, who has operatic training, totally fooled the audience into thinking he was nothing but a strong, dumb monster who grunts and rarely grins. So when he finally gets to sing a few lines in his real voice, the house erupted in cheers.
Leave it to two veteran Peninsula actors to not only nail their roles pointe shoe width chart but make their performances indelible, Check out a deadpan Linda Piccone as Frau Blücher, the “girlfriend/housekeeper” of Frederick’s grandfather; and droll George Mauro playing two roles: Inspector Kemp (who has both a wooden left leg and a hard-to-move wooden right arm) and the clueless blind Hermit living in a shack in the forest, Their spot-on portrayals provide some of the show’s biggest laughs, Piccone’s solo of “He Vas My Boyfriend” is a gas, as is Mauro’s inept, poignant Hermit singing “Please Send Me Someone.”..
One small nit is that the Transylvanian accents are all over the place — and often not there at all. It probably doesn’t matter, because Brooks’ zany take on things needs to be understood. Still, it seems a bit strange. Choreographer Jennifer Gorgulho conceived some complicated dance maneuvers for this show (the Russian Cossack dance bit and acrobatics in “Transylvania Mania” and the classy “Putting on the Ritz” in particular), and most are well executed.
What’s particularly charming about the “Young Frankenstein” dance ensemble is that it’s not composed of all reed-thin, showgirl-type dancers, Because the ensemble doubles as regular town folks, as medical students and a host of other pointe shoe width chart roles, they are all body types: tall, short, chunky, angular — and that’s a good thing, Lighting — especially the electrical bolts thundering out into the audience during the laboratory experiments — are impressive due to Carolyn Foot’s design, and Grant Huberty’s sound is clear, save for a few miscues at the start on opening night..