Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Greetings from the Bronx where "It's warm, it's tropical, it's just thousands and thousands of orchids." As an early celebration of spring the Orchid Divas have taken Center Stage at the New York Botanical Garden.

"Horticultural theater" for the "divas of the plant world" is how the New York Botanical Garden describes the "Orchid Show on Broadway." The stars of the garden's 9th annual orchid show are over 25,000 individual drooping, weeping and otherwise highly dramatic blooms.

For this year's "Spring Awakenings" the Garden’s horticultural staff has worked with a Broadway set designer to make the Garden’s conservatory feel like a Broadway theater under glass. Here is the view in the Palm Court for the limited engagement, a simulation of the proscenium at the Walter Kerr Theater.

The curtain has already gone up on to rave reviews. The New York Times also plays the Diva theme for this horticultural theater “The orchids are the stars. We know how to deal with their persnickety nature. They’re flashy. They command and demand attention. But when everything is just right, they absolutely steal the show.”

"Orchid Show on Broadway" opened on March 5th and continues until April 25. Since I'm a bit late with my review, I'll try to offer a backstage pass with a few photos below.

Most reviews give the impression that the entire Orchid Show is in the Palm Court and two glass houses where the lavish production takes place. That really isn't the case and the public walks through the other eight glass tubes and squares that are also decorated with orchids.

These houses with a more natural setting and a host of docents to educate visitors are always my favorite. So let's take the guided tour the way all visitors do instead of focusing on the main presentation. Let's start off in a tropical rain forest.

After viewing the proscenium and approaching a more natural arch, amongst the epiphytes, the first orchids to greet you are the Dancing Ladies.

These Dancing Ladies in Broadway curtain red would have been perfect for the arch.

And a few Dancing Ladies of another color growing in the shade of a big banana.

After the Dancing Ladies these show stoppers came on strong.

To put on a hit show on the Great White Way you need excellent lighting. Something the Enid A Haupt Conservatory has plenty of. Have a corsage.

Here are a few for either Julie Taymor "Turn Off the Dark," or Jules Fisher who really knows how to turn on the dark.

Backdrops count too. This isn't really a reed orchid but this Laelia superbiens fits right in with the papyrus background.

Here are a few more with moody backgrounds.

And one of the real Reed Orchids in mood lighting.

Here a little special effects play.

Speaking of moody, the real Diva of the orchid world. Cypripedioideae is more Ballet than Broadway or perhaps the "Javert" of the orchid world.

Then there is the Vanda that can be seen in a few places now. Every year Vanda seems underrepresented but they are budding throughout the show and by the time the outside grounds are covered in Narcissus, the conservatory becomes a rainbow of Vanda. One of my favorites, the Bernadette Peters of the orchid world.

But nothing finds the limelight as well as the moth. When the sun hits the conservatory, few can compare with the Phalaenopsis.

Of course you can see the real star there, the Darwin Star Orchid.

Don't you fret, M'sieur Marius
I don't feel any pain
A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
You're here, that's all I need to know
And you will keep me safe
And you will keep me close
And rain will make the flowers grow.

Well I guess you would expect the conventional review and as any Broadway fan knows you can't paint a Sunday Portrait without "Finishing the Hat." But first the unofficial DailyKos orchid, the beautiful butterfly.

The main event happens in the last two glass houses. The first square of glass was adapted this year by hanging a Phantom Chandelier over water and there are four balcony rails with an audience of orchids viewing the phantom, but no ghost orchids. Here are the slipper and moth orchids watching the show and the orchid chandelier.

Don't miss the perspective, like Castles in the Clouds.

Looking down from the square glass gallery you can find another proscenium. This arch made of Spanish moss frames an arcade. The walkway represents the front of the house at the New Amsterdam theater and people keep looking up.

Great views inside those columns.

Cue the walkout music.

And here is the backstage view I promised.

It is a good show but it is really about the orchids.

Actually it is about the people and understanding nature.

For me, it is all about the sunshine at my favorite sign of the coming springtime.

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