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Romeo and Juliet Will Crank You Up

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
03/25/2011 -  & March 26*, 26, 27, 27, 2011
Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet op. 64
Miami City ballet principals, soloists, corps de ballet and apprentice artists, Edward Villella (Artistic Director), Carlos Miguel Guerra, Yann Trividic* (Romeo), Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg, Haiyan Wu* (Juliet), Kleber Rebello, Alexandre Ferreira* (Mercutio), Isanusi Garcia-Rodriquez (Tybalt), Renan Cedeiro, Yang Zu* (Benvolio), Yann Trifidic, Didier Bramaz* (Paris), Elizabeth Keller (Nurse), Callie Manning, Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg* (Lady Capulet), Arnold Quitane (Duke, Friar Lawrence)
Opus One Orchestra, Gary Sheldon (Conductor)
John Cranko (choreography), Jane Bourne (director), Reid Anderson (production supervisor) Susan Benson (Scenic and Costume Design), Robert Thomson(Lighting Design)

J.C. Kronenberg & C.M. Guerra (Courtesy of MCB)

For the last several years, Miami City Ballet has offered a full-length ballet for one of its season’s programs. The community has been regaled with Coppélia, Don Quixote, Giselle, and Jewels, in addition to its annual Balanchine Nutcracker. So with these warhorses MCB offers South Florida quite a ballet education in addition to its wide-ranging contemporary repertoire.

This season closes with MCB’s first offering of Romeo and Juliet. Prokofiev’s great score makes it perfectly clear how warhorses are made. Such music offers unlimited opportunities to creative choreographers. Miami City Ballet chose to use the revered John Cranko 1962 version. Startlingly, extra performances were added for its run in Miami which is followed next weekend at the Kravis Center in Palm Beach and will then be given at the end of April at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. If you love classical ballet, make plans to go. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Of course it looks like a million dollars because it cost much more than that. And importantly, the money can be seen. This is a stunning physical production; in spite of many scene changes the sets are never awkward nor are they garish, in fact, their subtlety makes them all the more beautiful sometimes even old-fashioned. However, why is Juliet lowered to the crypt on an elevator? The same can be said for the costumes which are at times necessarily over the top and always appropriate.

But if the dancing isn’t worth it, who cares? Fortunately the choreography upstages the sets and costumes. After all, this should be the reason we came. Too often a great ballet is judged by its over-production; those who expect only spectacle, are likely to be surprised with this Romeo and Juliet. Cranko truly understood how to use Prokofiev’s score to communicate both plot and human emotions. Those no longer consumed by just the romance of Shakespeare’s tale will find plenty to keep their minds involved for three hours. Those not satisfied with excessive ballet posturing, will be happy; this Romeo and Juliet is about real movement. And what’s more important, this piece of theatre is hilarious, romantic, shocking, sexy, dramatic, cheerful and above all, fun.

As far as the dancers, it is a matter of taste. Haiyan Wu (26th) emphasized Juliette’s girlishness better than Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg (25th), though Kronenberg has a much stronger presence. In the second cast, Kronenberg showed her versatility by giving a Lady Capulet of unmatchable ferocity. But comparing casts here serves no purpose; these dancers know what they want to express and any audience will be immensely rewarded by what it experiences. Both Romeos, Carlos Miguel Guerra (25th) and Yann Trifidic (26th), are impressively masculine and romantic with Trifidic’s height offering a striking contrast to Wu’s slightness of frame.

Mercutio can easily steal this ballet and both Kleber Rebello (25th) and especially Alexandre Ferreira (26th) are more than up to the task. It is plain that Isanusi Garcia-Rodriquez revels in every second of Tybalt’s nastiness. The nurse is an interesting character who must be funny, yet at times very touching; Elizabeth Keller caught it perfectly. Poor Paris! Shakespeare was unnecessarily cruel to this guy who by the end proves he really is in love with Juliet. But who said life is fair? Yann Trifidic (25th) and Didier Bramaz (26th) are good actors who at first make us dislike this effete fellow, but by the end make him quite honorable. Benvolio seems to act as an engine to keep the merrymaking very merry; Renan Cedeiro (25th) and Yang Zu (26th) not only get it but do it with abundant class. The bottom line is that Prokofiev gave Cranko a rare opportunity and Miami City Ballet was obviously motivated by it. Those who have never been moved by variations and adaptations of the Shakespeare play might feel very different here. There is no shortage of emotion, even some slight though never dishonest sentimentality. But one thing very clear in this work is that the violent endings of our couple are not sad. Their deaths are inevitable and quite noble. It may sound corny but we do get the feeling that they are destined for eternal togetherness.

In spite of such fine performances, MCB will have an even stronger Romeo and Juliet next time out. There were some minor missteps in the chorus and a total command of the piece is not yet evident. But this company has grown tremendously in the last five or six years and to really nail a big work like this is impossible during any troupe’s first attempt. It would be interesting to see how much more fluid this season’s final performance is.

When Ballet Imperial entered the repertoire it looked pretty shabby; yet several seasons later it was approached with exceptional confidence. This is true of so many of this company’s works during the last ten years. The bar has been set very high and MCB seems to raise it with every program. Now let’s try to figure out why there are empty seats at any performance because few cities can claim a ballet company as solid as this one.

Jeff Haller



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