BWW Review: Matthew Bourne Brings Screen Dance Classic THE RED SHOES To The Stage

As anyone who has ever seen A CHORUS LINE will tell you, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger's screen classic THE RED SHOES has been tantalizing young dancers with dreams of ballet stardom since premiering in 1948.

BWW Review:  Matthew Bourne Brings Screen Dance Classic THE RED SHOES To The Stage
Ashley Shaw and Dominic North
(Photo: Johan Persson)

In the age-old tale of artistic ambitions versus true romance, an unknown ballerina gets a chance to star in a new production based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale, "The Red Shoes," about a young girl who is enamored with her fancy footwear until they become unremovable and cursed with the inability to stop dancing.

The life imitating art twist has the film's central character, Victoria Page, torn between settling down with the composer who penned her star-making role or obeying the whims of the tyrannical ballet impresario who discovered her and spending her life continually bathed in the spotlight. (A woman's ability to balance marriage and career wasn't a primary issue back in '48.)

Jule Styne, Marsha Norman and Bob Merrill took a crack at a Broadway musical based on the flick in 1993, but that shut down in less than a week.

Matthew Bourne, however, has a smashing success with his highly theatrical ballet version created for his New Adventures troupe, which premiered last December in London and is now visiting New York City Center.

With no dialogue in his new creation, the plot has been streamlined quite a bit and the film's music has been replaced with a new score adapted by Terry Davies from the work of cinema master Bernard Herrmann ("Citizen Kane," "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "Fahrenheit 451").

BWW Review:  Matthew Bourne Brings Screen Dance Classic THE RED SHOES To The Stage
Sam Archer and Company (Photo: Johan Persson)

The dominating piece of designer Lez Brotherson's set is a vintage proscenium stage set on a turntable, allowing scenes to fluidly flow from onstage to off.

The captivating Ashley Shaw, from Bourne's troupe, is grandly showcase as Victoria. (Sara Mearns of New York City Ballet alternates with her for this engagement.) The two-act drama has her dancing pieces inspired from the classical ballet repertoire, as well as a romantic seaside pas de deux with her lover Julian (Dominic North, alternating with Marcelo Gomes), some satirical German expressionism and, in a run-down music hall scene, acting as prop to be balanced by a pair of acrobats.

Sam Archer adds devilish menace as Boris, the greedy impresario.

The swift-moving story can be a bit confusing to follow, especially when mimicking the film's controversial climax, but Bourne and his crew satisfy in presenting a sumptuously packaged evening of fantasy.

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