American Ballet Theatre's Romeo and Juliet Review - A Smashing Success

The shouts of, “Bravo!” were drowned only by the tumults of, “Brava!” during the eight-minute standing ovation, as the curtain fell last night in smashing celebration of the opening night premier of ABT’s Romeo and Juliet, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and deservedly so.

The overall impact of the performance is World-Class in every regard. The dancing, the music, the costumes and sets, the lighting – all sublime and deftly handled by ABT’s, Sir Kenneth MacMillian, whose masterfully interpreted production first graced the stage and when it joined ABT’s repertoire in 1985. It has since cocooned fully, roundly, and exquisitely into one of their finest signature productions.

Amidst the sumptuous setting of Renaissance Italy, MacMillian weaves a tapestry of dance and music, ambiance and vibrant hues, humor and pathos, and ultimately, a sensuality and innocence that is integral to this timeless piece.

Former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Kevin McKenzie, rose to further prominence when appointed Artistic Director for the Company in October 1992, and has since maintained his laser-point vision of keeping his beloved ABT “American”. This, of course, translates into not being the slightest bit shy about utilizing unsurpassed talent from around the world to better the experience for one and all. I mean, where would the Lakers be without Pau Gasol? Not the world-beaters they have become and are today, I can assure you.

American Ballet Theatre was initially formed in 1939 with the aim to develop a repertoire of the best ballets from prior eras and to encourage the development of new works by gifted young choreographers. I would say the continuation of that dream has been a fervent success. Along with the more than 15 grueling International tours, in at least 42 countries, ABT has visited its luscious performances in each of our 50 states, and were widely sponsored by the State Department in doing so.

This opening night cast included the vivacious energies of Ukrainian, Irina Dvorovenko in the title role of Juliet, and 34-year-old, Robert Bolle – the superstar Italian ballet dancer, with Rock-Star popularity and status in his homeland – in the mirrored role of Romeo. Bolle first danced this lead part as a principal dancer at the ripe age of 20.

Bolle was handpicked by the incomparable Rudolf Nureyev, the groundbreaking Russian star who danced the World Premier of The Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet in 1965, at The Royal Opera House, opposite Margo Fonteyn. That is rather like being chosen by Sir Lawrence Olivier to play Hamlet for him.

Mr. Bolle’s strength and charm are ever-present as his purely masculine rendition of the woebegone lover scales the Verona-like hillside of his character’s emotional needs. As one who had the great pleasure and learning experience of acting this same title role some years ago and, like any performer who has poured their heart and soul into a character’s depths and truths, to some degree, we feel we own that part. We become, thereby, very protective, and critical of other’s interpretation and revealment. It would be false if I stated anything contrary to the notion that Robert Bolle never misstepped from the emotional truth of Romeo. This is something he is quoted to having said was critically important to him.

This should be the goal of any performance and layered to the fact that his lines are impeccable, his form – sublime, and his technique – flawless, leaves the audience fulfilled on every level. I am a man’s man – or lady’s man – however that goes, suffice to say I am straight, but if Michelangelo were looking for a model for his vaunted and timeless David, he could have done far worse than to have borrowed the complete physique of our Mr. Robert Bolle! That is if he could have ever convinced this athletic lad to stand still long enough… Based on what we all witnessed, it seems a highly unlikely proposition.

Dvorovenko, the waif of a wisp who flutters lightly and gracefully atop the marble-top-appearing stage with Juliet’s curious nature, and her endearing energy, is simply wonderful to behold, and she endeared herself to this sold-out crowd of reportedly 3,189.

The fantastic ABT orchestra reeling and dealing out the highs and lows of Tchaikovsky, conducted expertly by Ormsby Wilkins is an auditory treat in and of itself, believe me.

I have to say, however, that I was agog at the masterful color choices and implementation for both the amazing sets, and the flowing and accurate recapturing of the period as regards the complimentary costuming of the sometimes 50 and 60 extra players and cast. Truly remarkable. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch, and for opening night, that is always an exploit in itself.

There are only 4 of the 5 in total performances left so I suggest you RUN – DON’T WALK – or, dial then smile ( – (800) 982-2787) – to get your tickets. If you are lucky enough to still find tickets, don’t let this one pass you by!

Lastly, I would like to mention something interesting about the American Ballet Theatre’s performances of Romeo and Juliet, which is, each performance exults a new rotation in the lead role characters.

On Friday, July 17, Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomez will lead the cast. On Saturday, the 18th, Hee Seo and Cory Stearns dance the matinee, and Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg take over for that night’s evening performance. This engagement ends on Sunday, July 19th when Xioma Reyes and Herman Cornejo dance their way into LA history.

Venue: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
    135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
    Music Center Dance Info Line (213) 972-0711

Tickets: $30 - $120
When: July 16 through July 19

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