The Ensemble for the Romantic Century is providing a very enjoyable evening that combines the music of Tchaikovsky with an autobiographical story centered on the strange, lengthy relationship he had with a woman patron. This is the kind of blend the Ensemble does, sometimes with more success than with other efforts. This offering clicks pleasurably.
The music in itself provides delight, thanks to the selections from the Tchaikovsky repertoire and excellent performances by a trio consisting of Stephanie Zyzak on violin, Ari Evan on cello, and Ji at the piano. They perform with skill, zest and an appearance of having a wonderful time playing.
The direction in the intimate Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center is by Donald T. Sanders, and the show has been written by Eve Wolf (no relation), with the main focus on letters and comments by Joey Slotnick as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsly and the woman fan who becomes his patron, although they never meet. The relationship depicted is based on fact and it is shown here as important to the composer in the face of his self-doubts and depression.
The patron, Nadezhda von Meck is played by Shorey Walker, who looks absolutely orgasmic as she revels in listening to the composer’s music. She sends him money to help him survive, but their acquaintance is bizarre. She prefers to keep her distance, and the closest they get is being in Florence, Italy at the same time, her suggestion, so she can feel his presence. She passes by where he is staying, and he sees her from his window.
Tchaikovsky’s reported homosexuality is indicated by a confession he makes in a letter to another. What is particularly good about the program is that the story is just enough on which to base the music and provide a sketchy but intimate portrait.
In addition, the show is highlighted with the magnetic singing by tenor Adrian Kramer and the seductive ballet dancing by Daniel Mantei, who has contributed his own choreography. All of the ingredients are blended so smoothly that one can readily give oneself over to the mood established and maintained during the two acts and experience the joy of listening to a compelling concert.
Among the many musical selections included are “Nocturne” for cello and piano, “Scherzo, op.42. no. 2” for violin and piano, and “Intermezzo” from “The Nutcracker,” arranged for a piano solo (with dance). At the Studio Theatre, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-270-4200. Reviewed June 1, 2018.