I've now seen the Gomes/Herrera/Murphy/Hallberg cast twice, and I saw Reyes/Vasiliev/Osipova/Simkin tonight. (I'm also going tomorrow night for the Part/Hammoudi/Abrera/Stearns cast, so I might expand on this later.)
I agree with you, Anthony_NYC, part of the hilarity of Hallberg's sylph impression was that he was just so HUGE, and much taller than Barbee (the old dacha dweller). Simkin is pretty petite, and he was shorter than Clinton Luckett, who played the old dacha dweller tonight, so their juxtaposition was not as immediately funny.
As others have mentioned, Hallberg had absolutely gorgeous feet (some of the ballerinas must have been jealous), and he had the sylph arms (especially when running across the stage) down pat. Throughout most of the interaction with Barbee, he kept a wonderfully straight face, giving the impression of the ballerina as being a bit aloof, or playing "a bit hard to get."
Simkin, on the other hand, looked more believably like a ballerina from a distance, so he played his ballerina as an exaggeratedly feminine, almost flirty girl. He gave Luckett bright, angelic smiles, practically batting his eyelashes at him. He also had very impressive technique, pulling off some triple pirouettes and holding balances.
One move that read completely differently on Hallberg vs Simkin is when the dacha dweller has lifted the sylph onto his back by the arms, so they are back to back. When Hallberg fluttered his hands and feet at this point, it just looked absurd and hilarious, whereas when Simkin did it, it looked like he was panicking and flailing to get down, which was also hilarious.
On the whole, I would say Simkin hammed it up a bit more, and this was particularly hilarious when a very macho-seeming Osipova stormed in and separated the two would-be lovebirds. He looked very much like the desperate, hysterical girlfriend begging for forgiveness.
In Hallberg's case, the juxtaposition of his ballerina-perfect moves and positions and poses with some suddenly masculine gestures, and the juxtaposition of him and the dacha dweller were extremely effective.
I'm very curious to see how Cory handles this tomorrow!
Lastly, I have one complaint about this scene--I was sitting on the far right, so I couldn't see any of the sequences that took place on the bench (boxes?) on the right side. It would be nice if they could address this! Although I knew what was going on, it must have been torture for the people around me to hear the others laughing and not have a clue what was going on.
Some notes on the other performers:
Craig Salstein nearly stole the show once again tonight, and Riccetto was really into it as well. I loved them!
Susan Jones was also hysterical as the female dacha dweller, and she drew quite a bit of applause for her pointe sequences. And the sight of tiny Osipova trying to help her off the ground was especially hilarious.
I thought Xiomara Reyes was fantastic as Zina. I'm not sure if Osipova toned down her performance from Saturday, but to me, they looked very well-matched in their sequences together. And it was much more believable that they could substitute for the other, since they are both about the same height and have dark hair.
On Monday night, with Herrera, I felt her rendering of Zina's opening passage did not fit the music (the steps didn't seem to match the music), but as I've often found with Reyes, she made the steps make musical sense to me today.
She may not have the height on her jumps or the extension of Osipova, or even Herrera, but she pulled off some fantastic double fouettes and some other speedy turns.
One sequence that read completely different for me was Zina's solo in the pas de deux with Pyotr in Act II. After Zina and Pyotr kiss, Gomes played Pyotr as being ecstatic, but in kind of an innocent way, like, 'wow, I can't believe that just happened!' Vasiliev, on the other hand, looked very smug, and pumped his fist, very "yeah, I know I'm hot stuff." So with Herrera, Zina seemed kind of vaguely upset, but I didn't really understand why. With Reyes, however, it was crystal clear why she was mad ("That pig!"), and the fury seemed to burst out of every pore in her body when she was dancing her solo.
Vasiliev pulled off some amazing tricks--big leaps, big tour en l'air, jumping up in the middle of his pirouettes ala seconde, and a 540-degree kick turn. He definitely is explosive. But it sometimes looked borderline sloppy to me. And I sorely missed the grace and polish and effortless charm of Gomes. Similarly, Simkin is another dancer who can pull off great tricks, but I always feel like his execution is extremely clean.
Osipova also pulled off all her amazing technical feats very cleanly. Her characterization of the ballerina is very different from Murphy's. While Murphy looked gorgeous, like a glamorous movie star, sophisticated and feminine, Osipova's ballerina was an Independent Woman, a complete tomboy. It's no wonder she joined in when the Highlanders and Fieldworkers' dance.
This characterization was very effective when she was pretending to be the ballet dancer--in fact, this ballerina seemed even more comfortable in drag! If Simkin's sylph was uber-feminine, than Osipova's danseur was equally uber-masculine. In both acts, however, her mime read wonderfully clear from the stage.
Well, that's it from me for now, but I'll surely have more comments later!