Monday, March 11, 2013

REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet by the American Ballet Theatre

Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, Sunday March 3 (Matinee)

Two years ago, Hong Kong saw the New York City Ballet as part of the 39th Hong Kong Arts Festival. I saw one of the programs and in my review I wrote, “I was so surprised at how unsatisfied I feel after the performance and I attribute this feeling to the program, the uneven dancing and the unbelievably horrible singing.”

Just like opera, one might think that the New York City Opera is the lesser sister of The Metropolitan Opera. When I heard that the American Ballet Theatre is visiting Hong Kong for the 41st Hong Kong Arts Festival, I thought that I would be in for some good quality ballet! I was so wrong. ABT is not the MET of ballet.

I decided to choose Romeo and Juliet, rather than the other mixed programs in hope to see the full splendor of the company. Instead, I believe that it actually highlighted the shortcomings of the company and the production.

There are two Romeo and Juliet ballets that I am more familiar with, John Cranko’s and Kenneth MacMillan’s. In general, I feel that MacMillan was a better choreographer, well maybe except for Romeo and Juliet. Cranko’s pace was faster, there was a better balance between ensemble and individuals and contrast between revelry and tragedy. MacMillan’s, on the other hand, while may have more depth, actually missed a bit of focus and have a bit too much going on. BUT, there are a great deal to like about MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet; and I particularly like what some people called the 4 “B” duets – ballroom, balcony, bedroom and bier. MacMillan’s pas de deux are to die for!

For the American Ballet Theatre performance, the first thing I noticed was the scenery and costume design of Nicholas Georgeadis. At first, the Renaissance opulence was visually attractive, but it didn’t take long before the monochromatic theme began to wear heavy on the whole production.

The bulk of my disappointment though is on the dancing. In particular, the ensemble set pieces looked sloppy. I can understand if a bigger group can’t dance in sync but even the trio of Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio was an eyesore. Alexandre Hammoudi proved to be a reliable parter to Hee Seo’s Juliet. While handsome, tall and have long and gorgeous legs, his technique fell short for the demanding role of Romeo. Hee Seo’s dancing and portrayal of Juliet, on the other hand, was perhaps the only good things that met my expectation of what I thought was one of the greatest American ballet companies.
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Romeo and Juliet
Ballet in Three Acts

Creative Team
Choreographer: Sir Kenneth MacMillan
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Scenery and Costume Designer: Nicholas Georgiadis
Lighting Designer: Thomas Skelton
Conductor: Charles Barker (27.2, 1-3.3)
With Hong Kong Sinfonietta

Cast includes:
Romeo:  ALEXANDRE HAMMOUDI
Juliet: HEE SEO
Mercutio: ARRON SCOTT
Tybalt: PATRICK OGLE
Benvolio: LUIS RIBAGORDA
Paris: GRANT DELONG
Lady Capulet: STELLA ABRERA
Lord Capulet: VICTOR BARBEE

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