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pnb: roméo et juliette – review II

James Moore and Kaori Nakamura
(photo by Angela Sterling)

Is anybody else having musical flashbacks to PNB’s Roméo et Juliette?

What I particularly love about them is that the choreography and emotion are so ingrained in the music, that I can see the steps and feel the emotions—tantalizing traces of them, at any rate.

What I don’t particularly love about them is that they keep pestering me while I’m trying to write my Hubbard Street Dance Chicago review. It’s time to move on! Even PNB is moving on already, gearing up for Director’s Choice, which starts next week.

Rather than resist change, I’m going to go with the flow…after basking one last time in the beauty that was R&J. I even have an excuse: we never talked about the second cast performances. So, here goes:

In the title roles, Kaori Nakamura and James Moore forged a strong onstage relationship. Even more, they achieved that rare phenomenon where the space between dancers becomes an active, emotional element. And when there was no space? Their movements had an electrical quality—or, even better—the softness of worn cotton or cashmere. Nakamura played her Juliette as light and feisty, and Moore played his Roméo as more grounded and impetuous; both worked their characters in 3-D. Their Roméo and Juliette took as much charge over their lives as Fate would allow, and then some. This cropped up in their physical performance as well as in their emotional portrayal: they gave everything and then eked out a little more for a fabulously tragic finish.

Other folks who took turns as second-cast members? Seth Orza made a strong and striking Tybalt. Ditto for Carrie Imler and Mara Vinson as Lady Capulet: strong and striking. I wish I had my notes, to fill in some of the specifics. Alas.

Carel Kruz (recently promoted to principal) took on Friar Laurence. My personal bias is that I see him more as a Roméo or a Tybalt…more “dancing” and less of the Friar Laurence “I-am-now-expressing-something-deep-and-horrible” poses. Kudos, at any rate, for having the courage to take on a character and movements that the first-cast Friar Laurence (Olivier Wevers) has spent hours analyzing and perfecting. It was a stretch for Kruz, I think. Good for him, and good for the audience to see him go for something different. I suppose that seeing his huge jump confined, restrained into Friar Laurence’s warped inwardness ought to have helped the effect. It didn’t work out that way for me, though. I just kept hoping Kruz would come out in a different costume and start covering ground.

In another gutsy move, Barry Kerollis danced the role of Mercutio, which Seattle audiences associate so very, very closely with Jonathan Porretta. Here, differences in approach proved more palatable than they did in the Friar Laurence switcheroo. Kerollis played his Mercutio as a charming trickster and lovable pest. It was great to see this senior corps member get a chance to bite into such a meaty role. He danced it very well, maintaining clarity and full character in spite of the speed and near-marathon stamina required.

As the run progressed, the casting got gutsier. For the last Saturday matinee, artistic director Peter Boal gave Kyle Davis the very exposed role of Benvolio. Of course Davis can do it; he proved as much with his delightful, clean performance. The gutsiness is only apparent when you consider that Davis is very young and has only been a company member for a few months; last season he was an apprentice. Porretta and Moore, his cohorts onstage in this performance, generously supported the rookie character-wise, and the three created a believable bond on short notice. Their generosity also, for the most part, allowed Davis to avoid the “Now-I’m-touching-you-on-the-shoulder-to-show-we-are-conversing” pitfall that folks often fall into in story ballets.

And the conducting by Stewart Kershaw and Alan Dameron? I loved hearing that lush Prokofiev music live from the pit! What a treat! I did wonder why some nights a sequence seemed adagio and the next night that same sequence happened so fast I barely caught it. One explanation I heard was that there was supposedly an almost-4-minute difference between the shortest performance and the longest performance of R&J. That’s biggish, when you think about how movement can be affected by tempo. A jump for example. Or a turn. Still, though, I’d rather have the live music.

James Moore and Kaori Nakamura
(photo by Angela Sterling)

There aren’t many photos available of the second cast. Here’s the only other one I got from PNB. I’ve no copy to go with it; I just put it here because I think it’s lovely and ought to be seen. Angela Sterling took it from backstage.

It makes me want to see the show again, but…I’m moving on!