Magazine article Dance Magazine

Cheers! Encores! Celebrates 50 Dance-Filled Shows

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Cheers! Encores! Celebrates 50 Dance-Filled Shows

Article excerpt

City Center's Encores! series began 16 years ago, but it was put on the map in 1996, with its production of Chicago. Starring Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking, Chicago created so much buzz that it was moved intact to Broadway and--well, you know what happened.

But the impulse behind Encores! was not to discover new commercial potential in old musicals; it was to revisit them in a theater rather than in a vintage recording. And for everyone who loves musicals, this month's offering, Fanny, is a milestone: the 50th Encores!

Designed to showcase the seldom-heard scores of great theater composers like Rodgers and Hart and Cole Porter, Encores! provides a nice unintended consequence for Broadway dancers: Dozens and dozens of them have been through the Encores! mill, earning dozens and dozens of paychecks, and being seen by an audience of knowing theatergoers who didn't buy tickets just because they saw a cool number on the Today show.

However, that doesn't mean that dancers can just show up at the Encores! audition three times a year and figure that their odds of landing a job are improved. Encores! productions go up in 10 days, and that imposes special rigors on the performers. Dancer Mary Ann Lamb, whose Broadway credits include Jerome Robbins' Broadway and Fosse, knows all about working in Encores!, having performed in the very first, Fiorello!, and in enough subsequent productions to be among the most frequent Encores! dancers.

Originally from Seattle, Lamb calls Encores! "summer stock for the A Team." The rehearsal period is brief and intense, the performances are over in the space of a long weekend. "You learn to work very quickly and make choices fast," she says.

But because the time commitment is so minimal, Broadway's top stars and most experienced ensemble performers are happy to moonlight. "You're working with the best," Lamb says. …

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