romeo and juliet choreographed by John Cranko, music by Sergei Prokofiev, conducted by Ormsby Wilkins, with Sonia Rodriguez, Aleksandar Antonijevic, William Marrie, Richard Landry, Etienne Lavigne and Gizella Witkowsky. Presented by the National Ballet of Canada at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). Runs to February 17, Thursday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinees Thursday, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $26-$110. 416-345-9595. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
since the mid-60s, the national Ballet's Romeo And Juliet, with choreography by John Cranko, has become one of its signature ballets. The lead roles are coveted by dramatic dancers, Prokofiev's music remains the best ballet score ever written, and the story of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers can't miss, especially around Valentine's Day.I've loved this production for years, but this time around began noticing flaws. Sure, the first act, with its slowly unfolding love story against a backdrop of tension, holds up. Cranko's motifs reinforcing character match Prokofiev's, and set pieces like the Capulets' ball scene retain a dark beauty.
But acts two and three are pretty messy. Tybalt's (the fine Etienne Lavigne) death is unresolved dramatically and there are way too many awkward cuts to Friar Lawrence's cell. Susan Benson's two-toned costumes from 1995 are less subtle than the show's earlier ones, and some of the ensemble work feels rough, common for a much-performed work.
Opening night's Juliet was Sonia Rodriguez, impulsive and playful in the early scenes, magically transformed by love but by the end incapable of showing true dramatic heft in a careful and quickly executed pas de deux. The real discovery is the Romeo of Aleksandar Antonijevic, usually a stolid technician who's inspired here: noble, graceful and above all passionate. Once Rex retires, it's good to know there's Alek.