"How to use dance to create mystery is very important to me," says Jack Ferver who choreographs and plays Tinker Bell in a production of Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates
"I'm in heaven right now," Jack Ferver smiles over the phone. He was enjoying a leisurely breakfast with a couple of his castmates the morning after Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan had its first preview performance. This production of the lesser-known Bernstein score, officially opening tonight at The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College (where Ferver teaches), doesn't just feature choreography by the genre-mixing dancemaker: It has Ferver himself performing as Tinker Bell.
Peter Boal coaching PNB dancers in Opus 19/The Dreamer. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB
In a windowless subterranean studio under the New York State Theater, I pulled back an imaginary arrow and let it fly.
"Good!" said ballet master Tommy Abbott. "I think you're ready. Tomorrow you rehearse with Mr. Robbins."
I was slated to play Cupid in Jerome Robbins' compilation of fairy tales called Mother Goose. It was a role given to the tiniest boy who could follow directions at the School of American Ballet. In 1976, that was me.
The following day, I reported to a much larger windowless studio on the fifth floor known as the main hall. The room was bristling with excitement and nervousness. About half of the dancers from New York City Ballet were on hand, plus a coterie of bustling ballet masters and Mr. Robbins. Tommy tucked me and two other boys in a corner. My first rehearsal with the legendary choreographer was underway.
Apart from having won the Tony Award for best choreography, the dances in Damn Yankees, West Side Story and the 1994 revival of Show Boat have little in common.
Not the choreographers—Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins and Susan Stroman—or the composers—Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, Leonard Bernstein, and Jerome Kern. Not the dancers, either—the standouts were Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Dorothy Stanley.
The name that repeats in all three Playbills belongs to Harold Prince—a producer of the first two and director of the third.