Music by Leonard Bernstein
Choreography by Jerome Robbins
Staged by Jean-Pierre Frohlich
Scenery by Oliver Smith
Costumes by Kermit Love
Lighting by Nananne Porcher*
*Revived on 2/3/90 with lighting by Jennifer Tipton
World Premiere: Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 4/18/44
Original Cast: Jerome Robbins, Harold Lang, John Kriza (Sailors), Muriel Bentley, Janet Reed, Shirley Eckl (Passersby), Rex Cooper (Bartender)
When Jerome Robbins' first ballet, Fancy Free was premiered on April, 18, 1944, it proved to be one of the most exciting evenings in the history of Ballet in America, marking the emergence of so many new American talents. Jerome Robbins, a original member of American Ballet Theatre, had created the choreography while on a coast-to-coast tour with the company, working closely through correspondence with a young, unknown composer in New York. The composer, Leonard Bernstein, sprang into national prominence shortly before the premiere of Fancy Free when he stepped in at the last moment and, without rehearsal, conducted the New York Philharmonic as a substitute for the ailing Bruno Walter. The last of the triumverate of twenty-five year old collaborators was Oliver Smith whose set for the ballet was the first of a series of brilliant designs executed for American Ballet Theatre's contemporary repertory. The ballet also brought to the forefront six of the company's junior soloists who comprised the original cast: John Kriza, Janet Reed, Jerome Robbins, Muriel Bentley, Harold Lang, and Shirley Eckl. Following the success of the ballet, it was translated into a musical comedy entitled On The Town, which in turn was adapted for the screen with Gene Kelly as the star. Fancy Free with its youthful and zestfully modern spirt has become the trademark of American Ballet Theatre.
The setting of the ballet is in New York City on a hot summer night. Three sailors on shore leave pick up two girls and a fight develops over which sailor is to be left without a partner. In the bar, they stage a competition, each dancing a variation designed to win the favor of a girl, but at the same time revealing his individual character. When the girls are still unable to choose between them, the fight is resumed and the girls slip away. The sailors make up, but one wonders when a third girl passes their way, whether they have learned their lesson.