Before the Disney Store, the wrestling restaurant and the neon wonderland that has become 42nd Street, the New Victory Theatre proved the first major step in the renovation of Manhattan’s Times Square. That was only five years ago, but certainly long enough to be worthy of a celebration, especially since the New Victory has earned kudos each season for presenting family-oriented (but not childish) plays, musicals, dance and circus events.
To mark the venue’s fifth anniversary, on Dec. 11 The New 42nd Street, which owns and operates the New Victory, will throw a gala fundraising reception, with honorary chair Libby Pataki (the Governor’s Mrs.) attending. The Anniversary celebration will begin at 6 PM with cocktails, followed by a dinner reception, and a performance by the current New Victory tenant, Circus Oz.
Gala tickets run $750-$1,500 (with tables at $10,000-$15,000). For information call (646) 223-3081.
As for the Aussie daredevil troupe, Circus Oz, they’ve been offering their unusual combination of stunts and zany comedy since Dec. 1 and will play through Jan. 14, 2001.
“Live, funky music” accompanies the acts of this 12-member, 22-year-old Melbourne troupe, which includes tightrope walkers, spaceman-type trapeze artists and a fiery hula hoop dancer. Press materials for the show promise that “an entire orchestra shoots into outer space...marble statues scoff at contortionism...and athletes compete in an Olympic 100-yard dash - across the ceiling.” About the show’s "animal-free" mix of high and low culture, founding member Tim Coldwell said in a statement, “Our predominant aesthetic is a group of strongly individual characters, not a homogenized group following a single artistic vision.”
For tickets ($10-$35) and information on Circus Oz at the New Victory Theatre, 209 West 42nd Street, call (212) 239-6200.
As in previous years, the season at the New Victory Theatre is offering a mix of plays, dance companies and circus-acrobatic-style troupes, all part of the theatre's commitment to family-oriented shows that don't fall into the pejorative "children's theatre" trap. Among the companies featured in 2000-01 have been the UK's Young Vic outfit, Ping Chong's Kwaidan, and the world-famous Peking Acrobats.
The first show of the season, Harlem's Batoto Yetu troupe offering The Mukishi, ended its run Sept. 24. Following that, Sept. 29-Oct. 22, came Arabian Nights, from London's Young Vic Theatre Company. Ending its scheduled run, Nov. 5, was Kwaidan, a series of three Japanese ghost stories staged by experimental director Ping Chong. The Parsons Dance Company followed.
Upcoming New Victory performances include:
• Feb. 9-25, 2001: Urban Tap offers stomp, breakdancing and freestyle hoofing.
• March 2-18, 2001: "Circus." The name says it, sort of. From Amsterdam's Theater Terra comes this tale of an 83-year-old grandpa who, with his grandson, decides to stage a circus for his fellow nursing home residents. The company's Towering played at the New Victory in 1997.
• March 23-April 1, 2001: Dance, acrobatics and juggling are part of "Party," a presentation by the Introdans company of the Netherlands.
• April 6-22, 2001: Celebrating their 48th year in show biz, it's The Peking Acrobats, bringing their gymnastic twirls and exotic music to the Off Broadway venue.
• May 4-13, 2001: In The Post Man Delivers, solo comic actor Robert Post creates such characters as a desperate basketball coach, a ballet master and his female prize pupil -- and all eight suspects in an Agatha Christie mystery.
• May 18-June 3, 2001 brings gymnastic physical comedy with "Crash Test Dummies." No, not the pop group; it's the latest show by the New York based movement troupe, Antigravity. The group, comprising Olympic athletes and world class dancers, play crash test dummies undergoing basic training for their spectacularly dangerous career.
The New Victory serves as the 42nd Street host house for national and international productions, mostly geared towards New York City youth. The 1999-2000 season featured, among others,the Philadelphia Dance Company, Shockheaded Peter, Tomas Kubinek, Suzanne Farrell and the masters of 20th Century Ballet.
Among the practical information available on the company's website, www.newvictory.org, are show descriptions, schedules, show articles and reviews, special events listings, RealAudio and Video clips, online ticketing and a 3-D virtual tour of the New Victory Theatre.
-- By David Lefkowitz