BWW Review: Festival Ballet Providence's World Premiere ROMEO & JULIET is a Thoroughly World-Class Production
Festival Ballet Providence enjoys a well-deserved reputation for excellence both on the Rhode Island arts scene and in the professional dance community. The dedication and sheer quality the company brings to each production are unparalleled. Audiences anticipate first-rate, superior performances every time they purchase an FBP ticket, but the company's latest offering - a fresh, vibrant staging of the classic Romeo & Juliet - surpasses even these lofty expectations. This brilliant new work, choreographed by Ilya Kozadayev, is nothing short of a masterpiece, an absolute triumph for the dancers and artistic team involved in its creation.
Storytelling is at the forefront of FBP's Romeo & Juliet. This production provides all of the performers, from seasoned principals to first-year trainees, a real opportunity to shine as actors. Every expressive gesture and meaningful glance builds into the narrative and further develops the characters. The language of the ballet itself tells so much, with sweeping romance that underscores each pas de deux and utter enmity simmering in the explosive fight scenes.
Mihailo Djuric, FBP's Artistic Director, decided to take this Romeo & Juliet to yet another level by partnering with Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre and incorporating spoken word into the ballet. Gamm Artistic Director Tony Estrella collaborated with Kozadayev to meld the two dramatic forms seamlessly together, and Richard Noble and Jeanine Kane, two of the state's most gifted interpreters of Shakespeare's work and words, join the dancers on stage to lend their voices to key scenes in the performance. This blending of forms works wonderfully well, and the final result is a breathtaking, fast-paced, and entirely engaging presentation.
On opening night, Vilia Putrius danced the role of Juliet, bringing complete conviction to every aspect of her interpretation. Putrius, as always, displays beautiful lines and gorgeous technique with each delicate step, blinding-fast turn, and gravity-defying leap she executes. Juliet's innocence and youthfulness practically effervesce from her. Putrius deftly traces Juliet's emotional journey, from luminous happiness when she weds Romeo, to panic and disorientation as she wakes, seemingly alone, in the family crypt. Juliet's meeting with Friar Laurence (Noble) is a stand-out moment for Putrius, as Juliet's anxiety about the priest's plan mingles with her resolution to see the scheme through.
Alan Alberto captures the romance and charisma needed to make Romeo's character truly appealing, and his dancing showcases his strength, control, and gracefulness. Pas de deux with Putrius read fully as tender expressions of love and devotion, while complex fight scenes are delivered with extraordinary speed. Alberto superbly expresses Romeo's grief, rage, and shock following Mercutio's death and his own tragic duel with Tybalt.
Together, Putrius and Alberto bring depth and authenticity to their characters' relationship. They interpret Romeo and Juliet's first meeting not as a passionate infatuation, but rather a sure recognition between two souls. The duo adds substance to their characters' bond with each interaction, convincingly building up to a heartrending finale.
Ty Parmenter demonstrates dazzling comic timing as Mercutio. His lively antics - full of mischief and teasing - are coupled with superior turns and soaring jumps. All of Kozadayev's brilliant fight scenes are lightning fast and filled with complicated choreography, but the duel between Mercutio and Tybalt stands out for the wonderful quirks and humor included in it. Parmenter and Alex Lantz (Tybalt) bring the ideal balance of comedy and intensity to this edge-of-the-seat skirmish.
That same intensity makes Lantz's portrayal of Tybalt especially memorable. With the exception of Tybalt's passionate pas de deux with Lady Capulet (an intriguing interpretation in this production), the character never relaxes an iota. He stands ever-vigilant against his Montague rivals, ready to defend and avenge the barest perceived slight with his skilled swordsmanship. Lantz's steely gaze and powerful jumping passes fashion Tybalt as a formidable antagonist.
Kane and Marissa Parmenter share one of this Romeo & Juliet's most outstanding scenes: Lady Capulet's gripping lament after Tybalt's murder. The two women meld word and form in a raw, grief-fueled cry for justice sure to be remembered long after the curtain falls.
Kayan Kan and Freda Bromberg provide finishing touches for FBP's Romeo & Juliet through their beautifully crafted costumes. Lush fabrics and jeweled accents display the wealth and status of the Montague and Capulet households, while the townsfolk are decked in more homespun fare. Props and sets by the Carolina Ballet suggest both the opulence of aristocratic abodes and the bustling streets of everyday Verona. Well-placed columns and staircases provide depth and scope, and romantic draperies double as screens for subtle projections and scenic accents.
Festival Ballet Providence's Romeo & Juliet plays a limited engagement at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium through Sunday, February 12, 2017. Ticket prices range from $23-85 and group rates are available upon request. To purchase tickets, call (401) 421-2787 or order online at www.thevetsri.com.
Pictured: Alan Alberto and Vilia Putrius.
Photo by Dylan Giles.