Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria

December 12, 2008

Fraulein Maria

Doug Elkins & Friends

Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, NYC

December 12–15, 2007 & January 12, 2008

Reviewed by Wendy Perron

Doug Elkins’ loving spoof of The Sound of Music, first presented by Dancenow NYC and recently reprised by DancemOpolitan, frames the Julie Andrews optimism with downtown zaniness. Known for his archly postmodern mix of genres, Elkins splices together a tour jeté, a hip hop body wave, and a grand-right-and-left to create a celebration of the imagination. Single performers come to the fore.

    As the musical nun Maria, Arthur Aviles bursts onto the tiny stage at Joe’s Pub with ecstatic presence, all fluid arms, radiant face, and energy emanating from his body. The fact that he is in drag doesn’t drag his talents down. (Jen Nugent plays a simultaneous Maria.) Throughout the evening, he embodies that Julie Andrews optimism. As the “drop of golden sun” he adds a jazzy Broadway touch with the arms.

    David Parker, also in drag, performs “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” as a ridiculously demure Liesl. He plays it broadly, but it’s sooo much fun to watch him switch from demure to naughty—just for a moment—before going back to demure. His timing is impeccable.

    Mark Gindick was brilliant in “Edelweiss,” not the soft patriotic Austrian song of the movie, but a vaudevillian duet in which a leg then a hat slip brazenly over into Johnnie Moore’s territory. Again partnered with Moore for the madcap “Sing Along: Do-Re-Mi” (above), Gindick was over-the-top preposterous as an egomaniac conductor.

    But the best was Doug Elkins miming of the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” This was an interior micro version of the largeness and peacefulness of that song. Elkins’ way of sending waves of movement through his body is as spectacular as any mountain. He was somehow rueful and awesome at the same time.

    Many vignettes had the audience chuckling, laughing, guffawing. Part of the pleasure of being at Joe’s Pub is seeing the audience’s faces that are even closer and lapping it up. This was a deliriously happy audience.