Romeo et Juliette Casting and Reviews
Posted 28 September 2009 - 08:58 AM
I enjoyed Kaori Nakamura and James Moore on Friday night, but I wasn't moved as I was when I saw Noelani Pantastico and Lucien Postlewaite dance it last year. Kaori did become Juliet for me, except her boyish haircut was a distraction and kept me from really seeing her as a desirable young maiden. Sometimes she seemed like an adolescent tomboy, and sometimes she seemed like a 30 year old woman. James Moore never became Romeo for me. He was just James Moore dancing a role.
My husband raved about Chalnessa Eames as the nurse, but my memory of Jody Thomas was better in that role.
I enjoyed Carrie Imler in the role of Lady Capulet, and I can't even remember who I saw perform it last year. She became her mother to me, or as I imagine her mother would behave.
Then I brought my daughter on Saturday night. Carla Korbes and Lucien Postlewaite were transcendent. Again I was moved to tears. Carla was Juliet and Lucien was Romeo. Just WOW! This ballet belongs to Carla. After seeing it 3 times, the impression I have is that it is a ballet of arms. So much of it is acted with the arms, and I have never seen a dancer with better arms than Carla. I hang on every movement of her arms -- they express so much emotion.
I hate to compare Kaori and Carla because I felt they were two very different Juliets, but I would want to see Carla do the role over and over again. Even if Kaori danced it with Lucien, I don't think I would want to go a second time. Although I enjoyed her energy and intensity, her short hair was too distracting to me.
Ariana Lallone danced Lady Capulet, and although her dancing was dramatic, I didn't feel the mother connection like I did with Carrie Imler.
Saturday night had Carrie Imler as the nurse. I loved her in that role, too! The magic difference was that I believed she loved Juliet. She wasn't just a funny character, she was Juliet's nurse. The character made sense to me for the first time. I thought Chalnessa's nurse just seemed grossed out that she was next to a dead body.
Another delightful surprise was Karel Cruz! His long, tall lines made the Friar a larger than life character. My daughter said she preferred Olivier's, but I thought Karel Cruz's grief and dread were palpable. This performance demonstrated why he deserved this promotion.
There is always so much to watch, and I think I caught something interesting. Maybe someone can confirm this for me . . . Friday night when Mercutio kissed Lindsi Dec's character which leads to the fateful fight, it looked to me like she acted angry and egged on the fight. Saturday night when he kissed her, it looked like she enjoyed it, which made Tybalt angry and led to the fight. I thought it was interesting that two different reactions could lead to the same result. Did I really see it, or did I make it up in my mind?
Posted 28 September 2009 - 10:28 AM
You say you don't know much about ballet (and neither do I, BTW -- at least compared to most on this board), but my guess is you know more than you feel comfortable giving yourself credit for . I say that your observations are spot on! (Besides everyone's impressions are interesting and valuable.)
I've only seen Carla at the dress, so I'm holding off comment until I see her on Friday and Saturday later this week. I did see Nakamura/Moore last Friday, and my reaction fits very well with your comments. Both James and Kaori did extremely well, but the competition from both the past (Noe) and the present (Carla and Lucien) is just too strong. I did think James did some fabulous dancing, especially from a technical point of view, but this ballet depends so heavily on character and acting that technical dancing takes a back seat. Besides Lucien is unbelievable. He's Michael Jordon in this part. How can anyone compete? One new wrinkle is that my wife said on Friday that she found James/Kaori more believable as lovers than Lucien and Noe. I don't find that to be so, but my wife is very visually tuned so I guess she just liked the physical "look" of the James/Kaori couple.
You mention CARRIE IMLER. Indeed, indeed. IMHO, Carrie is the the most accomplished dancer in the company -- bar none. No one has her range, no one executes on all levels, in all types of ballet, like Carrie. I've only seen her Lady C so far (the nurse comes this week, in fact, I am going Saturday night primarily just to see that). It was Ariana Lallone and Lousie Nadeau last year. They are both great (I saw Ariana at the dress), but Carrie tops them both -- not in every particular, but as always with Carrie, she added power and character to every moment of her dancing from the grief scenes to the seductive scenes, not to mention her flawless dancing. Also I can't resist mentioning how great Carrie is looking. Congratulations Carrie!
I will look again this week at that Dec/Poretta kiss you mention. My memory is that Dec was disgusted at the kiss. It makes sense that she would be since she is a Capulet and Mercutio is a Montague. I note that even when Mercutio kisses a Montague, the woman is put off by his audacity (e.g., Poretta and Rausch in the opening scene.....Rausch is titillated, but put off too). In addition, remember that Mercutio also kisses Tybalt at one point!!
Posted 28 September 2009 - 02:59 PM
Not to mention licking the Tybalt puppet head...
Sometimes I think Mercutio is out to offend everyone.
Posted 30 September 2009 - 05:43 PM
Jean-Christophe Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette" succeeds in every way that the Bolshoi production didn't. While not every moment was memorable choreographically and/or dramatically -- hard to do in a full-length ballet, and I'm never going to find the Eifman-esque character of Friar Laurence convincing -- Maillot avoids the pitfall of much contemporary choreography, the endless repetition of three to five movement "signatures", repeated in endless succession. His dance vocabulary is a lot more varied and interesting, and it's most often seamlessly integrated into the theater. The theater in this work isn't only in the characterization, but also in some wonderfully inventive set pieces, like the puppet show, which in its combination of comedy and foreboding is as much of a tour-de-force as the play-within-a-play convention of "I Pagliacci". It's also in the way that he cuts a key group scene to the three key public relationships at that point in the drama -- Romeo and Rosalind, ironically no longer wanted, Lady Capulet and Tybalt, and Juliette and Paris -- which highlights the contrast of the private musings, longings, and plots.
One of the most impressive insights Maillot has is into adolescent female sexuality, particularly in the way Juliette pulls away not so much because she is socialized, but because she isn't quite ready at any given moment. Given a chance to absorb the sensation, she returns to Romeo. The balcony scene is rife with sensation from both characters.
The work is performed on a stark, white set, with two proscenium height flat white panels upstage, between which a ramp extends on the diagonal to about mid-stage. There are also two movable half-height curved panels, one wider than the other, that sculpt the stage space throughout the performance. Stage left, there is a black platform, both the bridal bed and Juliette's crypt. Despite the starkness, it is a rather intimate space, and it indicates a specific place.
I saw both Saturday performances, and the casts were starkly different. In the matinee, Kaori Nakamura's Juliette was, from the first scene with her mother, as hurt as she was playful, with Mara Vinson's overbearing Lady Capulet almost violently disapproving in her attempt to teach her daughter how to behave as a woman. When the nurse rips off her mask during the ball scene, or her robe in the bedroom scene with Paris, it's as if she's been violated. James Moore's Romeo could have been her escape and chance at love. Because of her almost insect-like sensitivity and intermittent physical delicacy, the tragedy was inevitable.
For all she said in her interview about Maillot's Juliette not being a sweet young girl from Shakespeare, Carla Korbes' characterization belied this. While passionate, her Juliette was more of an emotional innocent, getting in deeper and deeper, all the while believing that it would all work out, which made it horrific when it didn't. Her mother, Ariana Lallone's much more maternal Lady Capulet, was much more affectionate and non-traumatic. Physically, her dancing was silken. Given the chance, I wouldn't relive any period of my life before my 40's, but Korbes tempted me to want to feel what her Juliette felt as she expressed that sense of freedom and fullness.
In a Q&A, Postlewaite said he wanted to portray his Romeo as a playboy; it was Moore's Romeo who would have been believable working his way through the entire female population of Verona without coming up for air, while Postlewaite's far more patient Romeo likely would have absorbed and reveled in what he was feeling. (The girls would still be there when he was ready to move on.) Moore's change to the young husband was more of a stretch. I would have loved to have seen Nakamura's Juliette with Postlewaite's Romeo, to see how her Juliette would have reacted to his emotion.
Mara Vinson made the most of the Graham-like choreography, and she was a real dragon lady of a mother. She was so self-absorbed, like an Electra, that by the time she appeared at Juliette's crypt, I had no sympathy for her -- even Juliette's death was all about her. It was a powerful, brilliant physical characterization. Lallone's Lady Capulet was much softer and more maternal.
I thought Chalnessa Eames' Nurse was one of the great performances of last season when the work was first presented, and once again, her freeze-frame facial expressions and impeccable comic timing were splendid. Carrie Imler made her debut in the role in the evening; the comedy was in her constant motion. It was a very fine debut.
Barry Kerollis and Seth Orza made their debuts as Mercutio and Tybalt in the afternoon. Kerollis said that the character, with its anger and aggression was a stretch, and while his Mercutio was magnetic throughout, and aggressive in spurts, there were other times when he could have said, "Who, me, leave a bleeding dead body on the ground?" and have been convincing. Orza was sleek and was quite charismatic even when he partnered Mara Vinson, which was no easy feat.
The most emotionally charged relationship in either performance was Jonathan Porretta's Mercutio to Batkhurel Bold's Tybalt. Every time they were on stage together, sparks flew incessantly, and they were at each other with relentless, doggish, stubborn intensity.
There are five performances this weekend. If I weren't in Vancouver, I'd see at least two of them. Each cast has its glories, and the contrast between the two provides a rich experience.
If you have a chance, go see both.
Posted 03 October 2009 - 11:18 AM
Lindsi Dec's initial reaction was one of surprise with perhaps mild disgust (not unlike most of the women of either house that Mercutio pounces on with one of his playful kisses). But soon she becomes angry but still titillated. I watched her via my binoculars for 2+ minutes starting at the actual kiss. She runs around talking to her female friends both nervously laughing (the titillation I suspect) and clearly angry. When the violence starts in earnest she appears quite pleased that Mercutio is being held to account for what she seems to consider an insult.
So my short answser to your question is: I thought Lindsi's basic emotion was anger tinged with revenge (but a bit thrilled too).
Posted 03 October 2009 - 12:46 PM
Postelwaite says that he thinks Romeo is a playboy, but he doesn’t come off that way -- he’s kind of louche, lounging around with Rosaline’s scarf, but he’s serious about it, about his feelings. Moore is tougher, a bit more rowdy -- more matched with Mercutio’s aggression. Helene said above that he’s been working his way through the female population of Verona, and I believe it. It’s more of a surprise that he becomes so transformed by his meeting Juliet, because he seems less susceptible before.
Poretta’s Mercutio is almost over the top -- he plays, he mocks, he fights, he flirts at top volume and maximum intensity. Poretta has had several years to think about this character, he danced it in the Stowell version as well, and it really shows. His Mercutio can’t help himself -- he’s on a greased slide to disaster. Barry Kerollis makes an excellent debut in the role, but he’s not the same firecracker as Poretta. But if he doesn’t enter with that hyper energy, he could instead track the development of that tension – Poretta is on Tybalt like glue from the very start – it could be an interesting alternative to see that relationship change over the course of the ballet.
Kerollis is Mercutio to Moore’s Romeo, which changes the dynamic of the trio (with Benvolio – Josh Spell does yeoman work while Benjamin Griffiths is out). Moore’s Romeo is more aggressive, so in a fashion Kerollis doesn’t take all the weight of picking the fights. The three of them feel more equal in that regard. I’m wondering what Kerollis would look like with Postelwaite’s Romeo.
As Tybalt, Bakthurel Bold comes out of the gate angry – he’s looking for a fight just like Mercutio is, but he’s a bit more subtle about it. He glowers where Mercutio snipes. I almost didn’t recognize Seth Orza when he made his entrance in this role, in part because he’s got a moustache and goatee that makes him resemble the actor Benjamin Bratt, but also because he looks a whole foot taller. It may be the way his costume is cut, but his shoulders seem less bulky as well, which adds to a truly compelling image.
Chalnessa Eames has really grown into the role of the Nurse, especially the more eccentric timing of the comedy bits. She was funny before, but now she knows how it works. When Korbes enters with the gold lame scarf there’s a real Isadora moment with that deep flexion in the hip and the raised knees (and when you think about how this Juliet dies the reference feels even ickier). Juliet and the Nurse have great give and take here, and the moment when Juliet strips off her kimono to the waist (“see, I am really a woman”) is a landmark for the Nurse as well as the audience. Imler made a great debut as the Nurse – she really understands the nuts and bolts of the comedy. When Juliet flashes her, Imler’s Nurse does a wonderful spit take, and then makes the whole “let’s just get you covered back up” sequence into a clear sentence with several different thoughts. Juliet is almost a hoydon in much of this, though, with three arm circles when one would do. Lallone as Lady C really does “school” her here, correcting her posture and gestures, restraining some of her exuberance. In the Q&A Lallone talked about being the person in power (there’s no Prince of Verona or Lord Capulet here) -- she feels some of the more angular shapes for her character are more masculine. I didn’t get the gender buzz, but she’s certainly all about control -- she’s got a high gloss lacquered finish on everything she does (which makes her breakdown after Tybalt is killed more powerful).
Nakamura’s Juliet is less traditional, starting with her Leslie Caron/Zizi Jeanmarie haircut. As usual, she has great quickness and a very clear sense of where she is in the space. She’s not a traditionally ‘young and sweet’ Juliet, she’s a more distinct individual. She feels a bit willful – she’s been a protected part of her world and it’s made her confident. When she lets her arm wheel in multiple circles to embellish the gesture her mother is teaching her, it has a kind of Musketeers flourish at the end of the phrase.
There aren’t really any direct ‘quotes’ from the text in this production that I’ve been able to find, but Maillot does take cues from the script. Shakespeare often refers to hands (“let us kiss as the holy palmers do,” “would that I were a glove on that hand.”) and the choreographer has made very specific choreography for arms and hands here. Alongside the swimming motif (two hands tracing a series of s curves working in parallel), Juliet uses her hand almost like a hunting dog in the first big duet with Romeo -- it searches him out like a beacon and leads her all over the place before she finally gets to him.
The ‘masks’ that the three Montagues wear at the Capulet ball make them look like cousins to the goons in Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son” (another score by Prokofiev, which probably helps the connection). The ensemble comes rushing in, rather than the massed stateliness you get in most productions of R&J. But even that volume thins out so that for a big part of this scene it’s just three couples. Romeo and Juliet meet when they run into each other, literally -- he gets shoved and falls into her. The rest of the party is full of him trying to watch her or talk to her and being diverted or shunted aside -- he’s constantly in motion, looking for a better vantage point. (and, sitting behind a tall man Thursday night, I empathize with his predicament) Juliet is being protected and guided by family, including Rosaline. Maria Chapman is just as good now as she was when PNB first did this production -- she’s the most glamorous person in the universe here. When she flirts with Romeo earlier, you don’t feel like she’s playing with him particularly, she’s just accustomed to people recognizing her allure. Leslie Rausch has beautiful arms as Rosaline, but her torso feels a bit more static, so I miss the full-bodied sensuality.
The ramp across the back of the stage starts rising when Juliet appears for the ‘balcony’ scene -- it gets quite high (I would have real problems if it were me up there) Both characters treat the ramp as part of a playground -- it’s a slide and a jungle gym for climbing. Indeed the whole duet has a child-like vibe to it -- they shake and shove, they tag each other, and in a moment of foreshadowing Romeo “plays dead” for Juliet. Some Juliets respond more directly to this -- I remember once Pantastico actually beat on Postelwaite’s chest like she was doing CPR. Their romantic reaction to each other has a similar vibe -- this is squirmy sex.
If possible, Romeo is even loopier at the beginning of act II, in the square the next morning. The interplay with Mercutio and Benvolio is just this side of bromance. When the Nurse appears they are all still pretty jokey, but when Romeo absorbs the content of the note, he sweeps off-stage
There are references to modern dance styles throughout this work, but with the wedding scene in Friar Lawrence’s cell, Maillot gets uncomfortably close to plagiarism. The two acolytes enter with a long piece of stiffened white fabric, Romeo and Juliet stand side by side facing it upstage and we are in the middle of the Wade in the Water section from Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” Fortunately, this only lasts for a few more bars of the music, but it’s so obvious it just makes everything grind to a halt while we think “what?” Dramatically, it’s a weak part of the scene – he could easily find another way to approach the wedding that would be more unique to his ballet.
Mercutio just can’t leave well enough alone – there are several times in the big fight scene leading up to the double murder when the Montagues could have just walked away, but that never happens. Once the fight really gets underway, it’s all slow-motion, which makes it easy to see the random nature of the violence. It’s tempting to follow other characters during the fracas – the naturalism that Maillot uses in so much of this ballet is particularly obvious here. But the first couple of times that you see it, your eyes do track the main actions, and they are almost more violent and inexorable that they are in the original text. Tybalt kills Mercutio with a blow to the head – it’s so fast and direct that you’re grateful for the slow motion. Mercutio just drops – there’s no pretty death, no fancy language games (“if you ask for me tomorrow you will find me a grave man”). It takes longer for Romeo to kill Tybalt – he strangles him, and it’s pretty gruesome.
The Friar has been trying to influence the narrative all along, but he has failed each time. This final blow really fells him – his movement is brittle and passive. Wevers and Cruz have slightly different approaches to this part, but in each of them their attenuated height really works with the aesetic qualities of the character. Wevers makes longer phrases, both physically and dramatically. Cruz approaches individual movement very clearly – in one sequence with Juliet close to the end of their “getting ready to take the potion” duet, they do a torquing kind of push and pull action, counterbalancing her and as she sinks and rises. It’s a kind of hypnotism – the actual potion isn’t anywhere as powerful as this sequence.
The end of the work accelerates from this duet – the Nurse finds Juliet, her mother grieves, Romeo rushes in and before you know it, he’s killed himself. The action opens up just a bit with the final entrance of the Friar, but not much. He’s tried all along to stop the inevitable, but at this point he can’t even slow it down.
I’ve been missing Rebecca Johnston in the corps since she retired a couple seasons ago, in part because her bright red hair made her easy to spot in a welter of bodies. So I was happy to find another redhead to watch – Andrew Bartee, who is a new corps member this year. On one of the entrances to a group melee, he really dug into the ground, making the rhythm of the phrase very clear. What a nice first look.
In one of the Q&A sessions someone asks Boal if he will revive the Stowell version – Boal’s response is that probably not “I’m on this one for awhile.” It’s interesting that he’s bringing this one back less than two years after the company premiere. The conventional kind of repertory rotation will let something sit for a longer ‘fallow’ time – couple this with Boal’s decision to present the Forsythe “One Flat Thing…” in consecutive seasons and I wonder what his thinking is about the maintenance of repertory.
Posted 04 October 2009 - 07:25 AM
Thank you so much for your observations and insight, sandik!
Posted 04 October 2009 - 10:22 AM
Posted 04 October 2009 - 12:23 PM
I always giggle at that kind of promotion, especially the ones where they dig up some kind of connection between two otherwise not very closely related things. It's like that game people used to play about Kevin Bacon.
But still, we often use that kind of family tree evidence to talk about the legitimacy of something -- "she studied with X who was a student of Y who danced it at the premiere..."
Posted 04 October 2009 - 02:40 PM
If I'm right, I think it is a masterful image.
Posted 04 October 2009 - 03:16 PM
I think you have a point too Helene. So how to I resolve that? Here's my view (maybe we don't see this all that differently in the final analysis). Maillot's R&J does not use pantomime. I say that because traditional ballet pantomime gestures are very specific and pretty much always mean the same thing (pointing to the ring finger always means, very specifically, a marriage and always relates to the immediate plot). Maillot's gestures such as the swimming hands are far more generalized and perhaps can be better described as thematic movements. The swimming hands do relate to the theme of 2 people in love (after all, that is the basic theme of the Shakespeare play), but the swimming hands don't just mean R and J's love in a specific way. It is used in many, many ways by many, many characters (I sound like Speight Jenkins here ). Sometimes it is just the love between R and J, such as when we first see them alone after the ball as they stand far upstage bathed in a spotlight. Other times that movement is done by just one person and often means a love forbidden because it is a love of the 2 warring houses of Montague and Capulet such as the Friar often means when he uses it. In at least one instance I think it is used to symbolize the Friar's plan to bring peace to the 2 houses by marrying the 2 lovers. In another situation R or J will do the movement but with only 1 hand, and then it invariably means s/he is thinking of the other but is separated from their lover and alone. The motion is used in many ways with many different meanings but all within the theme centered on the unity that's possible btwn 2 entities if love is present. There are even times when these gestures hardly relate to the plot of the moment at all, but rather simply express the thoughts of the character at that moment.
My opinion is that the use of this type of thematic gesture is far different than traditional ballet gestures, but OTOH, as you say Helene, it is going too far to say Maillot's ballet has no pantomime in it. Better to say that balletic pantomime has been highly transformed into something more modern and more psychological just as Maillot's choreography itself is based on classical ballet training and steps, but completely transformed into something with more everyday human emotion and action (e.g., natural gait, heel-to-toe instead of ballet's toe-to-heel).
To me BOTH points of view that pantomime is not used and yet that it exists in the ballet are valid. It just depends on where you are standing.
Posted 04 October 2009 - 11:03 PM
Enquiring minds want to know!
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