Friday, February 16, opening night for Colorado Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet at the Ellie Caulkins Theater proved crowded and full of energy. Lovers walked two-by-two into the theater ready for a Shakespearean tragedy told by live music from the Colorado Ballet Orchestra, led by conductor Adam Flatt, and choreography by Derek Deane. With the aid of minimal text teleprompt, the three-hour evening of entertainment unfolded.
Setting the tone for Act I, we are serenaded by Sergei Prokofiev’s music before opening upon the Verona Market Square, which is full of activity. The bustle of imagery and movement fills the stage for the first scene making it hard to focus on any particular dancer until Scene II when Juliet, Sharon Wehner, is introduced. Light on her feet, and well over the age of 13 (she’s been with Colorado Ballet 22 years), she emits youthful gaiety and innocence.
During the following three scenes, set design, costume and lighting take center stage. Iván Gil-Ortega, Ugo Ranieri, Roberta Guidi di Bagno and Todd Elmer all deserve a round of applause. The opulence, flow, sparkle and grace of the costumes compliment each movement. This is especially true for the exuberant turns and twists of Lady Capulet, Erica Fischbach.
The set design transports us from market square, to Capulet house, to garden, to chapel, to crypt. The ominous nature of the final scene was eerily reminiscent of the “hall of faces” from Game of Thrones.
Upon close inspection, the actual love affair of our youthful leads, Romeo and Juliet, is quite brief having known each other a single day before marrying. Both characters are suggested by Shakespeare to be under the age of 15, but the chemistry and duality of Juliet and Romeo, danced by Yosvani Ramos, is palpable. They glide and spin across the stage effortlessly, making us want to enter their blind, love-laden world.
A standout for the evening with one of the longest death scenes ever was that of Ariel Breitman as Mercutio. He leapt with ease and charmed. Even when offering his last anathema, a plague a’ both houses! / They have made worms’ meat of me. I have it, / And soundly too. Your houses! He did so with well-executed extension, traction and form.
After the second intermission, we are well aware the end is near. Our star-crossed lovers are destined for demise. The final act culminates with such torment and agony. Limp Juliet appears weightless as Romeo moves her apparently dead body from the top of the crypt to the floor. Upon awakening, our Juliet mirrors such agony and makes us all lament their end. This is exactly where we recall the text, Go hence to have more talk of these sad things, / Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:/ For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
A love story, a tragedy, a tale of two doomed hearts never to co-exist, the Colorado Ballet’s take on Romeo and Juliet is an entertaining journey through a Shakespeare tale without any of the complicated text. The adventure unfolds through music and movement – it’s a violent delight.
Romeo and Juliet. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997. 1104-1139.
W. Celeste Davis Stragand: Published author, showcased artist and Denver transplant, W. Celeste Davis Stragand is not new to the art world. Her passion for delving into the root of existence and movement will challenge and praise both choreographers and the audience. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Celeste holds two bachelor of arts degrees, one in Chemistry and the other in English. She is also a graduate of Naropa University holding a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. A former national slam team poet, Celeste is a graduate of the Downtown Denver Partnership Leadership Program, sits on the Programs Committee for Women’s Transportation Seminar and works for Denver Regional Council of Governments managing their Way to Go Program (www.waytogo.org)providing mobility options for those in the Denver region. Her passion and enthusiasm for the kinetic arts will frolic and frenzy through the upcoming season of performances with many hopes for an encore!