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The Meridian Season of The Sleeping Beauty
Choreography Greg Horsman (after Marius Petipa)
Music Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Design Gary Harris
Lighting Jon Buswell

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 28 Oct 2011 to 5 Nov 2011
[2.5 hrs]

Reviewed by Greer Robertson, 29 Oct 2011

Oh to sleep for a hundred years blissfully unaware of the perils of the outside world and to awake refreshed, instantly loved and adored by a handsome prince with a promise of a glittering future, yet miraculously unchanged or aged for those years lost - what a spell, what a fantasy, it's a fairytale!

Many long years have gone into The Royal New Zealand Ballet's current production of Sleeping Beauty. It's been three in fact, as the Artistic Team have tirelessly plotted, designed, re-choreographed, re-invented, called in the expertise of Weta Workshop and re-worked this 200 year old classic to catapult it into the 21st Century.

In this beautiful theatre, from the first vibrant musical chord; the lights are on, characters are out, musicians are definitely at the ready, and there are things to be seen, things to be heard, there's a story to tell. Gone is the long, non visual overture of the brilliant Tchaikovsky score where one normally sits and admires the proscenium arch as well as marveling in the orchestral brilliance, while hoping, for the price of a ticket, that one is going to experience something special, a special magical moment in time. 

Boom, it is straight into it. Full on mime, full on costumes, full on sets, full on fantasy.

In a beautiful large silhouette, the birth of Princess Aurora is revealed bringing joy to the kingdom and courtiers and guests celebrate.

So there's already a difference but what's that? A rather bossy comical cat and his companion are in every scene. With feline fun and split second timing, former Company member Shannon Dawson does what he knows best; superbly entertaining the audience along with the King, Sir Jon Trimmer.

Opulently adorned in lavish costumes, the dancers are expertly placed and the epic story unfolds in a larger than life set, just like a multi facetted pop-up children's story book.

In my opinion, so far, the star of the show is the set. With consummate ease this lavish set in its own way takes charge, projecting energy and commanding the stage, as with bated breath it weaves and settles with silent articulate timing. This in itself is a well thought out process and one to be admired.

And onto the dancers. Delicately dressed with flowing hair the very beautiful coloured fairies appear. After a rather cumbersome entrance they show their flair for clean cut uncluttered choreography and start making their magic.

I enjoyed the names and qualities of these Fairies as they become Wisdom, Beauty, Wit, Grace and Song. Unfortunately Wisdom, The Lilac Fairy danced by Abigail Boyle on opening night, unnecessarily struggled through her demanding solo, bringing the ethereal wonderment back onto earth.

But, Guest Artist Stella Abrera from American Ballet Theatre as Princess Aurora is divine. With crystal clear precision she executes the most difficult of steps with ease, grace and fluidity. And following the beautiful and famous Rose Adagio with Aurora's possible suitors, it seems quite fitting that Carabosse, the wicked Black Fairy, expertly portrayed by Clytie Campbell, presents a black rose to Aurora on her 16th birthday to prick her finger on. Good fairy magic prevails, she doesn't die but just sleeps for a hundred years. Even Carabosse's ghoulish attendants possess character and mild wicked nonsense. They are fun.

When required to perform, the male ensemble executes more challenging choreography as they soar through the air with brilliant beats and elevation.

But the story is not complete without Prince Desire! Originally from Spain and latterly from America, Sergio Torrado adds a mature flair to his character. As a dance technician and pas de deux partner he is faultless. However, unfortunately, I failed to see any emotional connection between the two main characters. And that's what the fairytale is all about - love and happy ever after. Maybe he was feeling it on the inside, but on the outside he didn't appear happy. I also found the awakening scene of The Prince finally seeing this enchanting Sleeping Beauty, very rushed. An abrupt shake of her shoulders and a quick peck and she  is awake. But maybe this is the 21st Century way? I wanted more.

Glorious in splendor, this show will delight the young and not so young, And the resounding sound of success was shown in the audience's appreciation  for both the Vector Wellington  Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet.


For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.

See also reviews by:
 Jennifer Shennan (Dominion Post);
 Kasey Dewar
 Rosemary Martin
 Bernadette Rae (NZ Herald);