East Hampton Star

More mid-century story ballet than postmodern dance-theater, "White City," unveiled Saturday in Skokie, is flush with warm colors, pleasing and swift choral whirls and lifts, and brisk, straightforward episodes, all shrewdly bathed in Nathan Tomlinson's nostalgic golden lighting.

— Sid Smith . The Chicago Tribune

The events surrounding Chicago's 1893 world's fair amount to an eerie Greek tragedy on genius and madness.

The exhibit tied the then upstart city to the growing power of American invention--the Ferris wheel and zipper were both unveiled--and enhanced an architectural reputation that would soar for another century.

But one architect, John Root, died delivering the vision, while a fiendish serial killer, H. H. Holmes, preyed on fairgoers and an assassin killed the mayor. Splendor, overreach and disaster convened.

Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos' effort to turn this into a dance, "The White City: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893," is among the best works from Thodos Dance Chicago in several years and their finest collaboration with Reinking. She is legendarily linked to Bob Fosse, of course, but here the style and storytelling reach back to an earlier Broadway era, that of Gower Champion and his "Dancing" days in "Hello, Dolly!" More mid-century story ballet than postmodern dance-theater, "White City," unveiled Saturday in Skokie, is flush with warm colors, pleasing and swift choral whirls and lifts, and brisk, straightforward episodes, all shrewdly bathed in Nathan Tomlinson's nostalgic golden lighting.

At least, at first. From zippy ensemble evocations of fairway delight, made rich by Chris Olsen's ingenious film re-creations of the real White City and Nathan Rohrer's smart period costumes, Reinking and Thodos descend into the dark, forging a creepy duet starring Holmes (Brian Hare) and mayoral assassin Patrick Prendergast (Joshua Manculich). Holmes also seduces and then kills a victim (Jessica Miller Tomlinson), one of two solo deaths --Tomlinson trapped in a booth, crawling up and down desperately, finally gasping for air in an apt re-creation of Holmes' hellish methods, and earlier Root, the architect undone by nature and perhaps his own workaholic tendencies.

There's a saucy, satiric mayoral strut, lead by statuesque Wade Schaaf as His Honor, and an alternately fast and slow-motion depiction of the assassination. Hare, Schaaf, Tomlinson and especially Manculich are all excellent, and so is the finish, the creamy white costuming turned black, the reveling fairgoers now a funereal cluster, a headline projected onto the screen reading,"Great Exposition Now But a Dream."

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