John Lithgow, ballet star

John Lithgow narrarates  “Carnival of the Animals.”  Credit: Paul Kolnik
John Lithgow narrarates “Carnival of the Animals.”
Credit: Paul Kolnik

 

John Lithgow feels perfectly comfortable in women’s clothing. Over the course of his 40 years on stage and screen, Lithgow has done his fair share of acting in drag. “That’s one of my various stocks in trade,” Lithgow says. “In ‘Raising Cain’ I was in drag in order to scare people; in ‘The World According To Garp’ I was intent on making people cry, it was such a sweet character; and in ‘Carnival of the Animals,’ it’s flat-out farce. If people don’t laugh I’ll be deeply embarrassed.”

Lithgow has performed his narration for Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet “Carnival of the Animals” more than 20 times since its 2003 premiere with the New York City Ballet, the latest being this weekend’s performances with the Pennsylvania Ballet. He has yet to be embarrassed when he enters as Mabel Buntz, the school nurse and “scourge of each virus and germ,” who is transformed into an elephant in the dreams of the story’s young hero.

“I came up with the notion of a little boy running away from a field trip as a practical joke that goes awry,” says Lithgow, who was invited to create the story by Wheeldon, who had choreographed “Sweet Smell of Success,” the actor’s first Broadway musical. “He ends up being locked in a natural history museum overnight and dreams that everybody in his community is an animal. The boys on the wrestling team are the jackasses, the girls in the hallway are the twittering birds in the aviary, his piano teacher is the baboon.”

Despite his vast experience in a wide range of performing arts, “Carnival of the Animals” marked Lithgow’s first experience with ballet. “It was really a very exciting and brand new work experience,” he says. “I have vast admiration for ballet dancers, having experienced the rigor of their lives and work. They work so quickly and they do such daring things in no time at all.”

Best known for his roles on TV shows like “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Dexter” and movies ranging from “Terms of Endearment” to “Harry and the Hendersons,” Lithgow has been writing, recording, and performing stories and music for children since the late 1990s.

“I’m in the business of suspending disbelief,” Lithgow says. “You never completely suspend an adult audience’s disbelief, but you can totally suspend a child’s disbelief. It’s a wonderful thing to take them to a different place, to a magical world. I love entertaining children.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…