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pnb: roméo et juliette – review – opening night

Lucien Postelwaite with Noelani Pantastico,
who danced all 9 of the 2008 R&J performances

To answer the most burning question: Is it the same without Noë?

No. Nobody can repeat Noelani Pantastico’s raw, elegant, vibrant performances. Nor should they. Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette requires such personal honesty and vulnerability that to ask another artist to ape Pantastico is not just insulting, it would ruin the production. Don’t worry, though. Given the two Juliettes Peter Boal has chosen—and the two Roméos—all is well. Go with fresh eyes and open heart so you can fully experience the exquisite luminosity of this production.

Of course, that’s exactly what I didn’t take with me to opening night. And I still loved it!

Wevers, flanked by also-striking acolytes Jordan Pacitti and Jérome Tisserand; Bold and Porretta (photos by Angela Sterling)

While we’re in comparison mode, let me say that Olivier Wevers as the haunted Friar Laurence was even more visually interesting and compellingly scary than last time (which is saying a lot!) and Jonathan Porretta is even more technically clean, physically vulgar, and fun to watch than last time (ditto). Chalnessa Eames’ portrayal of the Nurse gave me a new sense of some of the stranger movements. (My favorite was in Act I, when, with just a waggling finger, she seems to run through the gamut of “You come here right this minute, young lady!” to “Please come here, poppet, and Nursey will give you a treat.”) I missed the multi-dimensionality of Louise Nadeau’s Lady Capulet (which might have been increased by the way the sharp angles of the role fit onto her delicate, rounded style?) but enjoyed the striking lines of Ariana Lallone’s long, black-clad limbs. Stanko Milov packed about as much substance as you can into the role of Paris, making him more than just a plot element. Josh Spell turned in a clean performance of Benvolio. Batkhurel Bold was a strong, noble Tybalt; that’s what the movement seems to call for; the story, I think, works better if he’s more of a flashy bully.

Körbes and Postlewaite (Angela Sterling photo)
As for the two lovers? Carla Körbes and Lucien Postlewaite expertly, exquisitely handled the full range of emotions and movement in these complex, draining roles, giving the audience a luminous, alive performance. Juliette’s moments with her family showed a smart, mischievous girl; Roméo’s moments with his pals had an infectious merry energy. And when the two come together, they pull at the audience’s heartstrings as well as at their own. They give a playful twitch, and then another, and then they yank down hard with all their might. They don’t just show us the feeling; they make us feel it with them. “For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Maillot’s version of this tale will send you back to the original play, looking for a way to relive the beauty of these two dancers’ performance.

There’s nothing new to say about the elegant, simple lines of the beautiful sets—sets which move and become part of the drama. (How heartbreaking when Wevers pushes against them in an effort to forestall the tragic ending! Oops, I think I said that in 2008 too.) Nothing new to say about the creative lighting or the costumes—except that Körbes knows how to make the fabric of her gold ballgown give an extra whisper of grace. All this has been said before when we all gushed (rightfully so) about it in 2008 (see links to 2008 reviews in an earlier posting).

The PNB Orchestra, however, is in peak form. Hurray! That’s especially nice, since tonight they start broadcasting live on 98.1 Classical King FM (Other PNBO live broadcast dates: Nutcracker – 11/27; The Sleeping Beauty – 2/5; and Coppélia – 6/4.) Whether they’re at their peak or not, they’re always appreciated…love that live orchestra!

More review to follow…I’ll be catching the Saturday matinee performance (Kaori Nakamura and James Moore as R&J; Barry Kerollis in his debut as Mercutio and Seth Orza as Tybalt)…and I’ll be there Backstage Pass night, Friday, October 2.

(If you’re under 40 and haven’t met the Backstage Pass people, stop by their lounge on the 4th floor during intermission and introduce yourself. They’re nice, love dance, and have a discount offer for you. They even talk to those of us over 40.)

Here’s a link to tix if you don’t have yours yet.

(Where to sit? I was thinking about that, since I caught part of the rehearsal from the 2nd tier. This ballet is so much about emotion. It’s in the bodies and movement, of course, but it’s very much in the dancers’ faces as well. I’d recommend sitting as close as you can. Or, pull your binoculars out of your camping gear bag and bring’em to the ballet. It’s worth it.)

Click here to see other casting changes (ex. Karel Cruz as the Friar, Benjamin Griffiths returning as Benvolio)

And click here for reviews on PNB’s swank new site.