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“Romeo et Juliette” as stunning as last year at PNB

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Sep. 28, 2009 at 10:10 am |
September 28, 2009 12:00 pm
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Carla Körbes in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette.  Photo © Angela Sterling.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Carla Körbes in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

When I saw “Romeo et Juliette” danced by Pacific Northwest Ballet last year, I thought – as I rarely do – this is one work I’ve simply got to see again. Apparently, I wasn’t alone: So many people came for repeat performances that PNB scheduled it again for this season, and last Saturday night they showed yet again just what a phenomenal production this is.

Partly it’s the excellent dancing, of course, but a lot of it is the sheer synchronicity of all the elements. The choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot (originally for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo) manages to be highly stylized yet incredibly passionate, fitting perfectly with the neo-classical hauteur and agony of Prokofiev’s score. Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s minimalist sets, standing like Donald Judd sculptures, work with the dramatically monochrome costumes by Jerome Kaplan to set the story in the realm of symbolism, a medieval fairy-tale.

And after a few messy bits (the first Capulet-Montague fight), the PNB orchestra settled down to some fine playing, with fat, triumphant brass and confident violins under director Allan Dameron.

But of course, it’s the dancing that brings each character in this fable to life, and this “Romeo et Juliette” sees some stunners. As Juliette, Carla Korbes was brimming with joy, impossibly young-looking, with swift, bright gestures. Romeo, usually such a difficult role to bring out of wimpiness, was here sincere and shy, danced with honesty by Lucien Postlewaite. Jonathan Porretta was an irrepressible, edgy Mercutio, more comic than breathtaking, and he, Postlewaite and Josh Spell as Benvolio made a zany, boyish trio, with excellent coordination.

One downer in this production is the Friar Laurence role, the agonized puppeteer who spends way too long commenting on each scene that he’s pulling the strings for, but long-legged Karel Cruz was intense and believable here. Araina Lallone was a superbly icy Lady Capulet, despite the too-fast tempo for her grieving scene.

All in all, a fantastic production to watch, with highlights like the perfectly-timed partnerwork in the corps, a brilliantly mocking fight scene and some heartbreakingly passionate pas de deux from Romeo and Juliette.

Don’t miss this one.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Romeo et Juliette” runs through Oct. 4 at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, Seattle. Tickets from $ 25.  2-6-441-242, www.pnb.org

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