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Little Dancer

Kennedy Center, Washington


More beautiful than you can imagine

With a powerhouse creative team featuring Susan Stroman, Lynn Ahrens, and Stephen Flaherty, this world premiere Kennedy Center musical is inspired by the story of a young ballerina immortalized by Edgar Degas in his famous sculpture.

Part fact, part fiction, and set in the harsh backstage world of the Paris Opera Ballet, this world premiere Kennedy Center musical is inspired by the story of Marie van Goethem, a young ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas and became, inadvertently, the most famous dancer in the world. Torn by her family’s poverty, her debt to the artist, and the lure of wealthy men, she struggles to keep her place in the corps de ballet–a girl on the verge of womanhood, caught between the conflicting demands of life and art.

Opened November 2014

Kennedy Center, Washington

The show is visually stunning. Beowulf Boritt’s colorful set is dominated by giant canvases festooned with bold brushstrokes evoking Degas’ brand of impressionism. The canvases are frequently in motion to keep pace with the fast-changing segues between scenes and numbers that pepper this fast-moving production.
The subject matter itself opens the piece to an unusual breadth of artistic mediums, many of which the creative team capitalizes on to stunning effect. Beowulf Boritt’s Degas-inspired set, painted in the artist’s signature Impressionistic style, places us in a pastel dreamscape, meant to house compelling portraits of its characters rather than merely a historical re-creation of 19th-century Paris
Little Dancer is visually stunning thanks to the scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, the costume design by William Ivey Long, the lighting design by Ken Billington, and the projection design by Benjamin Pearcy (59 Productions). Kaleidoscopic colors cover the stage. Pretty smudged pastels and soft tulle treated my eyes, but so did the garish brightness of the can-can girls and the sorrowful bedraggled look of Marie’s mother Martine (Karen Ziemba), all taken directly from Degas’s paintings. Indeed, “Little Dancer” breathes life into the work of Degas to such an extent that it makes you want to reach out and touch the richness.
The handsome set design, by Beowulf Boritt, employs projections by Benjamin Pearcy (59 productions), of some of the [Degas’] signature works.
The design was enhanced by the spectacular light and projections designs of Ken Billington and Benjamin Pearcy (59 productions), who worked gorgeously together to re-create those dreamy, slightly dusty colors of Degas’ world of ballet.
I’ve seen many clever theatrical devices in recent years, but few have affected me as much as this show’s last scene. “Art isn’t easy,” as Sondheim wrote in his musical about painter Georges Seurat. But sometimes it’s more beautiful than you can imagine, and Little Dancer proves this again and again especially during the finale which took my breath away.


Book and Lyrics
Lynn Ahrens

Stephen Flaherty

Director / Choreographer
Susan Stroman

Set Designer
Beowulf Borrit

Video Design
59 Productions

Lighting Designer
Ken Billington

Costume Designer
William Ivey Long

Senior Animator
Lawrence Watson