Rob and Alan, the central couple in Dada Woof Papa Hot, tell us early in the play that they will be taking their daughter, Nikki, to see Peter and the Wolf. They don’t tell us where the performance is being held, but, given these men’s attention to appearances, I’m surmising that they will be watching it at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
Let me explain. The Guggenheim’s presentation of Peter and the Wolf, a 1936 composition by Prokofiev, has been a holiday tradition at the museum since 2007. For the first six years of the museum’s version, artists created installations to interpret the story, with Isaac Mizrahi doing the narration. Two years ago, Mizrahi turned these matinees (in 2015, there are two performances each Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 13th) into full-blown theatrical events, lasting thirty minutes. He not only designed the set and the costumes – he’s been designing for theatre, dance, and opera for years – but he also did the directing, a profession he adopted in 2010, when he staged Sondheim’s A Little Night Music for the Opera Theater of St. Louis.
The Peter choreography is by John Heginbotham, a former Mark Morris dancer and founder of the Dance Heginbotham company. Of his work, he told an interviewer: “Each performer is getting his own specific dance vocabulary. The bird is a ballerina. Peter’s movements are a little more contemporary. The cat has a sort of Bob Fosse, slinky, sexy vocabulary.”
When I went to visit Peter this past weekend, I noticed quite a few Fosse-familiar families in the audience, with their little charges in tow. I happened to sit behind a set of male parents, and when one of them addressed the other as “Rob,” I wondered: Has the Woof invaded the Wolf?
From my other eavesdropping, I ascertained that, for certain culturally minded Manhattan parents, Peter and the Wolf has become a kind of alternative to that Tchaikovsky production on the other side of Central Park. I overheard a woman tell a friend, “We took our Olivia to The Nutcracker, but it was too long and she fell asleep. This one is only a half-hour, so she’s much happier.” In the battle of the Russian composers, it appears that Peter has vanquished Pyotr.
I suspect that Rob and Alan – not to mention Nikki – have the stamina for both shows.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.