Elkins’s Fraulein Maria is better than a Broadway show

November 14, 2009

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Or: Why didn’t the nuns think of this?


Broad Street Review

Nov. 14, 2009

In Doug Elkins’s gleeful Fraulein Maria, it takes three Marias— two women (one Asian, one presumably Caucasian) and a black gay guy (also presumably)— to make this most diverse version of the much-loved but squeaky clean and very white movie, The Sound of Music.

Though the two female Marias remain demure, the delightful Kevin Fitzgerald Ferguson (as the male Maria) makes some funky and some feminine moves of the erotic, if cute, kind, especially in a goofy duet with Devin Buchanan. A fourth Maria makes a cameo appearance in the form of a hand puppet.

Overall, the hour or so dance spoofs the film in 11 adroit vignettes while the choreography concocts a heady mix of homage to some of the great choreographers of the recent past, with a twist of hip hop. Idiomatic moves from Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, José Limon, even George Balanchine were lightly brushed in. Audience members in the know caught many of these references and laughed appropriately.

Hoodied nuns, who doubled as the von Trapp children, danced with an exaggerated bent wrist here, windmilling arms there, and synchronized torso-bending swoops everywhere.

After the emcee warmed up the audience with the Do Re Mi song (each section singing a vowel), dancers stretched fabric over themselves to suggest the Alpine scenery. A very funny bit had the emcee pull a white scarf from a plant in the audience to cover a “mountain” in snow.

But the show really took off when the dancing commenced and never flagged through to the finale. Though Doug Elkins & Friends is largely a pick-up company of dancers, this current 13-strong crew is well matched, and all performed with even expertise.

But two male solos stood out. The strikingly sinuous dancer Scott Lowe was last seen here in May, well paired against Paul Struck in Miro Dance Theatre’s Spooky Action. As the Captain (the von Trapp children’s father), he more or less stands around, elegantly passive while watching the others dance out the story. He enters and exits until the moment he takes center stage, undulating first his upper torso, then his arms, popping and locking against the music, ending with a beautifully slow rotation of his head.

Doug Elkins, a master mixer of hip hop and modern dance, took the explosive final spotlight in a hoodie and basketball shorts. To “Climb Every Mountain,” he high-stepped in place while shooting hoops, blessing himself, jiving and gesticulating in alternating rude and benign moves in such rapid succession that I couldn’t allow myself a blink.

Elkins’s Fraulein Maria is better than any Broadway show I’ve ever seen. It lets the movement speak for itself, forever solving the problem of Maria.