BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation

Saturday 28th April 2018, 7:30pm, Joan Sutherland Theatre

The classic comic love story proves timeless as The Australian Ballet's THE MERRY WIDOW returns to the Sydney stage 43 years after it debuted in Melbourne in 1975. A sumptuous expression of the beautiful Belle Epoque is a treat for lovers of classical ballet stylings with incredible performances, grand sets and detailed costumes.

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation
Amber Scott as Hanna Glawari and the Dancers of The Australian Ballet (Photo: Daniel Boud)

Based on Victor Leon and Leo Stein's operetta, this delightfully absurd story of love, deception and schemes to save a country from debt is bought to life with Ronald Hynd's beautiful choreography of Robert Helpmann's scenario. Telling the story of the doddering old Pontevedrian Ambassador's plans to save his country from financial ruin by pairing off the newly widowed Hanna Glawari with his First Secretary, Count Danilo, to ensure her wealth stays within the country, old grudges and secret dalliances are unearthed with comic results. This work, which celebrated it's 404th performance on the 2018 season opening night, holds the prestigious position as the first original full length work created for the company and the opening night response proved that it is remains a favourite work. The music, presented by the Opera Australia Orchestra under the baton of guest conductor Paul Murphy, is John Lanchbery's arrangement of Franz Lehar's music.

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation
Andrew Killian as Camille, Leanne Stojmenov as Valencienne and Franco Leo as Njegus (Photo: Daniel Boud)

The opulence of the French Art Nuevo period is recreated with Desmon Heeley's detailed set that presents an expansive ante-room at the Pontevedrian Embassy which makes way for the ballroom, complete with enormous chandelliers and sweeping staircase. The work contains two intervals to allow set changes to transform to the garden at Hanna's villa where she hosts a party and finally popular supper club Chez Maxime which incorporates raised alcoves of tables around a central dancefloor and a wall of mirrors. Heeley's costumes capture the fashion of the era as lines moved from the structure of the late 19th Century to the fluidity of the early 20th century incorporating lace and embroidery for the women and velvet and brocade for the men along with a line of cabaret hall dancing girls.

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation
Amber Scott as Hanna and Adam Bull as Count Danilo (Photo: Daniel Boud)

For opening night, Amber Scott danced the lead role of Hanna Glawari with sass and elegance, capturing the confident cheeky spirit of the widow whilst also expressing the memories of younger days with Count Danilo with a disappointed hurt. With the aid of Hynd's choreography Scott conveys the widow's playful flirtation and efforts to make Danilo jealous after he returns her snub. She ensures that the performance is more than just exquisitely executed dance, delivering a full acting expression and depth of understanding the character's motivations. As Count Danilo Danilowitsch, the chosen suitor, Adam Bull gives the First Secretary a cocky arrogance and conveys that he considers himself as somewhat of a playboy and not desperate enough to forgive Hanna after her first rebuke despite the truth that he was the one that abandoned her when she had nothing as a young peasant girl. He maintains that indignation when he believes Hanna's ruse to save the Ambassador's wife Valencienne and the French Attache Camille de Rosillon from discovery but the Count's eventual understanding is presented with a love that expresses the depth of his emotion.

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation
Colin Peasley as Baron Mirko, Leanne Stojmenov as Valencienne and Andrew Killian as Camille (Photo: Daniel Boud)

Colin Peasley presents the comic role of the aging Ambassador Baron Mirko Zeta with a delightful physical comedy ensuring that the old man's ailments are explicitly understood in a pantomime obviousness whilst also expressing his concern for his wife's attentions to the French Attache. Leanne Stojmenov delivered a lightness to the young Valencienne, highlighting the absurdness of the match with the Baron whilst also presenting a lively spirit drawn into a dalliance after attempts to show protests to Camille's advances. Rounding out the love triangle as Camille, Andrew Killian provides a good contrast to the Baron with performances that combine grace and skill with the comedy of the role as the amorous lover tries to get time with the young Ambassador's wife.

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation
Amber Scott as Hanna and Adam Bull as Count Danilo (Photo: Daniel Boud)

In amongst the beautiful 'classical' stylings Hynd has injected a good dose of humour that ranges from subtle to overt and the contrast between the formal ball, the garden party and the cabaret lounge provides a nice variety of styles which includes expressions of traditional eastern European dances and the cancan girls of Paris. A number of smaller roles like the Ambassador's secretary Njegus (Franco Leo), Chez Maxime's Maitre d' (Luke Marchant) and other incidentals add amusing little sub stories to provide comedy relief from the love stories and drama unfolding between the main characters.

BWW REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Brings Back Beautiful Romantic Comedy THE MERRY WIDOW To Delight A New Generation
Adam Bull as Count Danilo, Amber Scott as Hanna and Andrew Killian as Camille and the dancers of The Australian Ballet (Photo: Daniel Boud)

The Australian Ballet's THE MERRY WIDOW is an ideal introduction to classical ballet with a simple, easy to follow plot whilst also being a perfect piece to satisfy seasoned audiences that enjoy a traditional expression of the artform. It is a treat to see a piece of work that holds such a significant place in the Company's history recreated with such love and attention.

THE MERRY WIDOW

Sydney: 28 April - 19 May 2018

Canberra: 25 May - 30 May 2018

Melbourne: 7 June - 16 June 2018

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