Gen LeRoy’s “Missing Footage” is a smart, sophisticated backstage drama focused on the fiercely fragile and competitive world of ballet. The world premiere of LeRoy’s second play, at Nyack’s Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, bristles with crisp dialogue, surprising conflict and persuasive performances.
Controversial prima ballerina Julianna Ricci (Tanya Gingerich), with little respect for tradition, has angered ballet purists and intimidated other dancers with her radical interpretations of classic roles. Recovering from a “total and shameful” nervous breakdown in the English Devon cottage of a devoted fan, Julianna finds comfort away from the rigors of costume fittings, rehearsals and performances.
Goaded by an enterprising young filmmaker, Marcia Etthridge (Tracy Shayne), Julianna is urged to make a comeback. Marcia has mortgaged her home to finance a documentary film study of Julianna’s career, and soon becomes the ballerina’s business manager and publicist, encouraging her to make a screen test for an avant garde moviemaker (Jack Ryland) for a film bio of the legendary Russian actress Nazimova.
Rob Sedgwick, playing Julianna’s gay former dance partner and closest friend, gives the play its humor, trashing rival dancers and clumsy partners. Gingerich is a radiant and reserved Julianna, and it comes as no surprise to discover that the former member of the New York City Ballet executes onstage barre exercises with professional finesse and grace.
Anne Rogers adds warm support as the protective companion and obsessed fan, and Shayne, playing the manipulative, ambitious Marcia, gives the play its perky life force and thrust.
Tony Walton’s deft and agreeably well paced staging balances the taut and edgy relationships of the play’s principal characters with the whirling romanticism of ballet. Scene changes are accompanied by lush musical fragments from “Giselle,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
With the possible exception of a mildly repetitious second-act lag, the play is firmly crafted and boasts a decidedly marketable potential for Off Broadway and regional venues.