While most people spend their Halloween nights trick-or-treating, many opted for a more romantic option this year, namely Milwaukee Ballet's "Romeo & Juliet." Last night, Oct. 31, Milwaukee Ballet's production of the timeless romance had its opening night at the Marcus Center. The three act performance ran from 7:30-10:15 p.m. with two twenty minute intermissions.
William Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" is a story that has been adapted many times in film, theater, and literature, but Milwaukee Ballet took on the distinct challenge of translating the timeless words through the art of dance. In a recent interview with yesterday night's Juliet, Luz San Miguel, she said,
We have to express the beauty of [Shakespeare's] words with movement so that's where the whole challenge comes... I think you can express so much more with a gesture than with words and that's what Michael Pink does so beautifully with his "Romeo & Juliet", just put the movement in every single word Shakespeare wrote... that's the beauty of dancing it.
The audience doesn't miss a thing without dialogue as the dancers do a stupendous job of emoting and expressing dialogue through movement. One familiar with the specifics of Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" can see that every last plot point is covered in this production, and those who only know the gist can easily pick up on the details without having read it.
Artistic Director Michael Pink has an excellent sense of staging as the large space is either filled to the edge with performers or left with many voids to draw or detach focus depending on the scene. Similarly, interspersed dance sequences, particularly those in the Capulet party ensemble, work together nicely to create a general theme of innocence and love amongst two powerful clashing forces.
The only element of the production that left something to be desired was in the opening fight sequence between the Montagues and Capulets. The dancing, stage combat, and musical composition was incredible and created a real sense of chaos, but for an introductory to the two sides of the fight, there was next to no noticeable distinction between parties. Of course the audience gathers from previous knowledge and future dances who belongs to which side, but something as simple as costume color scheme would make the Montagues and Capulets more distinct is such a busy opening scene.
However, this is one minor flaw in and otherwise flawless production. The cast danced and performed beautifully, evoking a range of emotions from scene to scene. Romeo and Juliet's poignant love scenes leave the audience breathless, while impressive duels involving sword throws keep them on the edge of their seats. And while each cast member is worthy of merit and mention, the two performers who stood out the most were Alexandre Ferreira as Mercutio and Luz San Miguel as Juliet.
Many entertaining dances including fast progression, synchronization, and assisted lifts came from the trio of Romeo (Davit Hovhannisyan), Benvolio (Marc Petrocci), and Mercutio (Ferreira). And while Hovhannisyan stands out throughout the production for obvious reasons, Ferreira's explosive personality and comedic performance made him a crowd favorite. The character of Mercutio is one that emanates charisma and comedy, which Ferreira pulls off effortlessly. An unexpectedly substantial amount of adult humor contributes to his role as the lighthearted joker which, coupled with his charm and unbridled personality, made him all the more endearing to the Milwaukee audience.
This is Luz San Miguel's third production of "Romeo & Juliet" as the title character, which is no surprise after seeing her portrayal of the timeless character. San Miguel suits Juliet perfectly, creating an innocent, vivacious young woman who grows up quickly through her love for Romeo. Her staggering emotional range moves from passion, playfulness, fear, grief, to rage without saying a word, all while effortlessly dancing her part. Her connection with Hovhannisyan during key love scenes are extremely emotional and moving, but the epitome of her talent is showcased in a dance with Juliet's rejected lover, Paris (Timothy O'Donnell). While this dance is made as a duet, it is choreographed in such a way that it is undoubtedly Juliet's dance, as she fights the urge to run away, forcing herself to go through the motions for her parents' sake. San Miguel manages to remain the graceful dancer she is while becoming pure tension, making the audience feel her internal struggle through every step and turn.
A few weeks ago, San Miguel stated,
Through all of my ballet career I can tell you this is one of the most beautiful "Romeo & Juliet"s I have seen, so it is definitely worth it to come and see.
This is no exaggeration or result of biases, as everything from the music to the dancing to the facial expressions build perfectly to a powerful, emotional experience. Milwaukee Ballet's "Romeo & Juliet" is a unique telling of Shakespeare's classic tale through the art of ballet, and is not one to miss.
"Romeo & Juliet" runs this weekend only, tonight (Nov. 1) and tomorrow (Nov. 2) at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m. at The Marcus Center. Tickets are available online or by calling the Milwaukee Ballet Box Office at (414)902-2103. For more information on Milwaukee Ballet and their production of "Romeo & Juliet", visit http://www.milwaukeeballet.org/.