|| The Patriot Ledger
|| November 5, 2011
|| Iris Fanger
The Boston Ballet opened the 2011-2012 season with a revival of its production of John Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet,” set to Sergei Prokofiev’s throbbing score.
Cranko’s version looks fine on the company because of the emphasis on story-telling that calls for strong acting as well as dancing skills, shared by these performers.
Watching Cranko’s work is like standing before a huge wall painting in some Italian town, only this picture is three-dimensional and in motion.
Designed by Susan Benson, the architecture that frames the scene is a two-story setting of dark stone.
The arches change decorations or are differently lighted to transform the town square to the ballroom for the Capulet party, to Juliet’s bedroom, and finally, her tomb. Swirling against the walls are the characters, dressed in Benson’s costumes of lavish taffeta and velvets trimmed in gilt braid, or long robes or capes for the nobles.
The bulk of the fabrics take up space and movement patterns of their own as the dancers promenade onto the stage.
The rainbow colors worn by the peasants, a sensual trio of gypsies, and the carnival clowns, only add to the visual texture.
But this work is a ballet after all which must depend on the choreography, not just the scenery and the narration.
The most developed passages of dancing are the pas de deux between Romeo and Juliet which introduce the lovers, establish their relationship and carry the action to the unrelenting finish.
It’s to Cranko’s credit as a stage director as well as dance creator that the feeling of dread builds even though the tragic ending is well known to the audience.
Nelson Madrigal as Romeo and Misa Kuranaga as Juliet made a convincing pair of lovers, he for his boyish looks and somewhat foolish pranks as a teenager in love – at least at the start. She is petite and doll-like, indeed, one of her best roles with the company to date has been the child-like lead in “Coppelia.”
Kuranaga was totally believable as the young girl torn between the safety of her nurse and the thrill of surrendering to her first love.
Her delight in the kiss he steals at the end of the ball was only one of the memorable moments of the long evening.
The duets made much of her falling into Romeo’s arms, trusting him with her weight and balance.
Madrigal carried her up and over his head, poised on his shoulders, and caught her when she flew across the stage as if he were arresting a bird in flight.
Standouts in the supporting roles, were Yury Yanowsky as the black-hearted Tybalt, and Paulo Arrais as Mercutio, Romeo’s ever laughing best friend, caught unaware by the sword thrust that sends him to his death.
Arrais, along with Jeffrey Cirio as Benvolio and Romeo gave a delightful tone to the bouncing buddies’ trio that introduced them in Act I.
Sabi Varga of Braintree gracefully performed the somewhat thankless role of Paris, Juliet’s other suitor, but he’ll have a chance at Tybalt later in the run.
Tai Jimenez, a former member of the company, gave Lady Capulet a more complex portrayal than usual.
Special note must be made of the infinite variety of sword fights, staged by Ted Hewlett.
As a whole, the corps de ballet came close to stealing the show in this remarkable pageant as they changed character and costumes from peasants to court dancers to townsfolk astonished at the danger in their midst.
One wishes that Cranko had brought them on stage for a final scene as Shakespeare did, to view the terrible results of the feud, rather than ending at the lovers’ deaths.