Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bookends - Don Quixote & The Secret Garden - Stage Reviews

Don Quixote - The National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Choreography Restaged by Lindsay Fischer and Peter Ottmann, after Choreography by Nicolas Beriozoff, Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky
Until Mar. 13th 2011

The Secret Garden - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music by Lucy Simon, Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman, Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Directed by Anna Linstrum
Until Mar. 19th 2011

Adaptations from other sources into stage shows is a time honoured tradition, and not a new thing, but sometimes it works and sometimes it can work, but misses the mark (ahem, arachnid's anybody?). While I've actually never read or even seen Don Quixote or The Secret Garden in any incarnation, making them completely new stories to me. While I found the story of Don Quixote quite odd (especially considering how famous it is, and finally finding out what it's about), the ballet production by the National Ballet of Canada was strong and grande as usual. While The Secret Garden has seemed to capture many hearts, I found the musical had lovely touches but somehow didn't secure my heart.

NBC's Don Quixote has some beautiful sets and we follow the journey of DQ (Character Dancer Hazaros Surmeyan on my night) and his faithful companion Sancho Panza (my favorite Robert Stephen) as they journey in serach of DQ's non-existent love Dulcinea. Along the way he encounters various characters and his jovial self seems to always help lovers unite. There's no heartbreaking drama or emotionally pulling story, but it makes for a light, enjoyable excuse to meet Gypsy's, Matadors, and it lets the dance company spread the wealth around, with beautiful dances for many players.

Xiao Nan Yu and Aleksandar Antonijevic, who I sometimes find a bit cold (although Yu wowed me last year in Onegin, which returns next week), got to let loose and have fun as Streetdancer Mercedes and Toreador Espada, and I've never seen them better. They were superb and showed that their technical prowess can marry with joyous delight in the right roles.

Greta Hodgkinson and Piotr Stanczyk (above) take the leading romantic roles as Kitri and Basilio, lovers kept apart, until Don Quixote helps them fend off parents and a silly suitor (the always fun Kevin D. Bowles). Piotr has always been an excellent dancer who was a great character actor, so it's nice to see him get leading man status nowadays.

Tina Pereira and Julian Vanstone were pretty in pink and purple as Kitri's friends, Tanya Howard was beautiful as ever as the Catanet Woman, and Elena Lobsanova was absolutely gorgeous as Queen Dryad, who appears in Don Quixote's dream (yes, there's a dream sequence, after a Gypsy sequence, and before a tawdry tavern sequence. Like I said, the story goes all over the place).

While I'm no dance expert, and I tend not to love the classic ballet's as much as the modern ones, I found Don Quixote totally lovely, particularly in Act 2 and 3 (once I could get over the randomness of the story and just accept each dance scene as their own, beautifully performed set). Despite not loving the story, it's such a pleasure to see the superb company perform, as it seems to be such a standard to adhere to. I also love picking out the next stars out of the Corps lineup. Again, I know nothing about technicality, but I did pick out boys Robert Stephens and McGee Maddox (both who've been promoted recently) so I'd like to think I have an eye for these things! Ha! This time around, (I think I have the names right from the corps), Joseph Steinauer and Dylan Tedaldi seemed to stand out from an already strong corps.

Now I loved Robert Stephens in such a comicical role as Sancho Panza, though I do wish there was more dancing to that role, as it's always a delight to see him move. But like Rebekah Rimsay (who I think is the best character dancer of the company), Stephens seems to be excelling at putting his whole body into a role, and telling story, character and humour through his body movements.

The Secret Garden musical is a nice, unassuming, inoffensive musical, but it lacks the emotional pull to really get my attention, and while the music has some melodic moments, overall, it just sort of meshes together into a bit of a bore.

Fantastic performances from the young central characters overcomes some of the less affecting adult roles/characters. The best were Jos Slovick (Spring Awakening London) as Dickon, the young gardener who helps central character's Mary with finding The Secret Garden, Holly B. Julier as the maid with the lovely voice and Gene Goodman as bedridden child.

The production directed by Anna Linstrum seems strong, with some nice revolving effective sets and a good ensemble, but the overall book by Marsha Norman and the songs by Norman and Lucy Simon keep the overall pacing slugging along.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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