Quirky and appealing as Amy Sherman-Palladino’s “Bunheads” can be, the charm flags quickly when she gets too far away from the dance studio. Last night’s winter season premiere spent many long minutes getting Michelle (Sutton Foster) back under the wing of Madame Fanny (Kelly Bishop) and the dancers back in training under Fanny’s eagle eye.
Luckily, along the way the bunheads got to show what makes them so likeable. Except for the neurotic Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles), the anorexic-in-the-making who is the closest the show has to a cliché, the bunheads remain funny, fresh versions of ballet students everywhere. Smart, down-to-earth Melanie (Emma Dumont) has spent her summer taking care of her grandfather; efficient, self-possessed Ginny (Bailey Buntain) has lent a hand with her mom’s real estate business, and Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins), the show’s gentle ingénue, has taken over running her family while her mom waits out an unexpected pregnancy in bed. Boo is also the unwitting agent of The Return of Michelle when her interview with a TV news reporter about the recital debacle that ended the last season is turned into a wacky YouTube rap that goes viral.
Though the dancing was in short supply, as always the bunheads acquitted themselves well when choreographer Marguerite Derricks turned them loose. Jenkins remains an inspiration to ballet students everywhere. Her beautiful feet and effortless leaps remind aspiring professionals that a non-traditional student can have great technique, not to mention real artistry. Read Jenkins’ moving story in Pointe’s upcoming February/March issue.