MOSCOW — Muscovites are enchanted by the inaugural visitor in the new U.S.-Soviet cultural exchange program--a singing and dancing personification of Raggedy Ann, the rag doll beloved by generations of American children.
The first American theater troupe to visit the Soviet Union since 1979 is doing eight sold-out performances of a musical based on the Raggedy Ann tales.
The official premiere of "Rag Dolly" is Wednesday night at the Children's Musical Theater, a large modern complex in Moscow's Lenin Hills, but the second public performance was this afternoon.
About 1,000 Soviet adults and children packed the hall for the Broadway-style musical, a form of theater that is rare here.
The crowd gave a three-minute standing ovation to Ivy Austin, who plays the red-haired doll, after she sang the title song in Russian. She also received loud applause for translating occasional words into Russian with dramatic asides.
A narrator gave the audience an oral synopsis in Russian before each of the two acts.
"We just loved it, loved it!" said Tamara Derevyanshchikova. "I am only unhappy that I don't speak English. I've never seen a musical before, but I can say that I really like this kind of theater."
Her 12-year-old son, Alyosha, said he wanted to see "lots and lots more" American shows.
A 9-year-old boy named Volodya stood in line for autographs. "I love this American theater," he said. "I especially liked the dolly."
Members of the 90-person troupe caused a sensation at intermission when they passed out letters from schoolchildren in the Albany, N.Y., area and were surrounded by Soviet youngsters eager for American pen pals.
"Rag Dolly" is a production of Albany's Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts. No other troupe has staged it.
William Gibson, author of "The Miracle Worker," wrote the musical and Joe Raposo of "Half a Sixpence" and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" is the composer.
The Americans say they have had a warm reception. "I haven't been so well taken care of since I left my mother," Raposo said.
Some complained, however, of being unable to mix with Soviet colleagues.
"I get the feeling the Big Eye is on us all the time," said Sam Farkis, one of the American musicians.