Theatre Review: A Product of its Time

review

Giselle, libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier, music by Adolphe Adam, choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot; produced by the Kansas City Ballet: seen March 12, 2011

As with my previous review of The Daughter of the Regiment, I am not overly familiar with the format of ballet. I’ve been to one or two (and yes, have gone to The Nutcracker) and have seen dance at the Fringe Festival – but I am not familiar enough with the style and vocabulary to be entirely comfortable reviewing this as a critic.

So, I will review it as ‘just’ a patron. The story of Giselle, first performed in 1841, is – as my title indicates – a product of its time. It’s quaint and sweet, but shows off the gender politics of its time. (After all, the plot involves a woman dying just because she can’t have the man she loves, who loves her and yet is engaged to another woman – and HE’S the hero!)

Stephanie Greenwald and Logan Pachciarz, 'Giselle', 2003. Photo by Steve Wilson
Stephanie Greenwald and Logan Pachciarz, ‘Giselle’, 2003. Photo by Steve Wilson

As a ballet, it was hard to follow the story and figure out who was who, even knowing the plot beforehand (I had interviewed one of the two ladies playing Giselle for the March KC Stage spotlight – and with ballet, it is typical to know and/or research the plot beforehand). And the Pas de Deux completely confused me. I know it’s supposed to highlight a dance between the couple, but I guess I’ve seen too many ‘behind the scenes’ items on musicals where they talk about how everything needs to advance the plot, as I felt this just seemed a break from the main story and just seemed to be a ‘dance off’. It really took me out of the story. The final negative is that the production had a LACC, as I’ve been calling them – otherwise known as the long-ass curtain call (although it was interesting to see the ballerinas receiving flowers – I didn’t think that was done anymore!).

On the plus, the ballet fights between Albrecht (played at this performance by Logan Pachciarz) and Hilarion (played at this performance by Luke Luzicka) were well done and highly enjoyable. Tempe Ostergren, as Giselle, was sweet and played the frailness well. At the end of Act I, when the character goes mad with grief, she finally started showing her passion and the story really started to take off – alas, just in time for intermission to break it. And kudos to the stage manager, who had to find two big trained hunting dogs for the dancers playing the nobles to bring on.

Act II never quite got up to the same speed, and Kaleena Burks, as Myrtha, never seemed to take off. It was way too obvious to me that she was TRYING to dance; trying too hard to show off her skills. While she is supposed to be Queen of the Wilis, something other than human, in the end she was ‘just’ a dancer.

Albrecht finally shined in the end of Act II, finally showing a passion and loss that made me feel a bit for his character.

While technically good, the show was emotionally very distant – and again, I think that was primarily that it is a product of its time. I was hoping to have my heart broken – and it didn’t even twitch.

This review has been posted to the KC Stage review system. Agree or disagree? You can rate / review this show yourself (requires free registration) by going to KC Stage.