Chicago Dance Review: MOULIN ROUGE – THE BALLET (Royal Winnipeg Ballet)

Post image for Chicago Dance Review: MOULIN ROUGE – THE BALLET (Royal Winnipeg Ballet)

by Lawrence Bommer on November 3, 2012

in Theater-Chicago,Tours

THE FRAMEWORK IS A BIT ODD, BUT THE MOVEMENT IS GLORIOUS

Not to be confused with the frenetic film starring Nicole Kidman or the older Oscar winner with Jose Ferrer as Toulouse Lautrec, this 2009 confection by Jorden Morris celebrates the seedy side of “la belle époque” as exposed by the still-scary underworld of Montmartre. A hit offering from Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, it persuasively combines classical ballet with the less fashionable can can and gallop.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Moulin Rouge – The Ballet, Auditorium Theatre in ChicagoMoulin Rouge – The Ballet tells the unedifying tale of ingénue Nathalie (Jo-Ann Sundermeier), a sweet soubrette who’s “gotta dance” and gets a chance to star in the Moulin Rouge nightclub. She falls in love with an itinerant painter named Matthew (Dmitri Dovgoselets).  (Imagine Gene Kelly with a portable canvas.) Aided by his superior rival Toulouse Lautrec (Yosuke Mino), Matthew wins the heart of this Parisian sensation, only to trigger the implacable jealousy of wicked Zidler (Eric Nipp), the nightclub’s proprietor who mistreats his danseuses and craves Nathalie for himself.

For all the high-kicking exhilaration and screaming splits fueled by a potpourri score—including Offenbach, Strauss Jr., Massenet, Lehar, Shostakovich, and Ravel—this love story ends sadly for reasons unexplained by the music. But before the heartbreak and the fatal gunshot, Morris’ pile-driving troupe leap into balletic overdrive, transporting us to a demi-monde of affable tailors, bohemian hopefuls, boulevardier dandies, goodtime Mademoiselles, and the danger that shadows delight.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Moulin Rouge – The Ballet, Auditorium Theatre in ChicagoIt’s no small triumph that Morris can reconcile so many diverse dance styles with an equally eclectic musical palette.  Alas, there’s even an intrusive tango sequence thrown in for good measure—as if we suddenly moved to Buenos Aires circa 1940: The series of sultry and uncredited tangos that open the second act almost breaks the time frame altogether; what is “la vie en rose” doing this far south of the equator? At the same time, Morris could have actually made Debussy’s “Golliwogg’s Cake Walk” into, well, a cakewalk. Equally, set designer Andrew Beck’s clumsy and scattershot décor with its signature Tour d’Eiffel never quite evokes the literally electrifying interior of the Moulin Rouge. But Anne Armit and Shannon Lovelace’s garish mix of fashionplate elegance and outré vulgarity delivers just the right panache with the costumes.

But what finally matters is the movement. So when lovely Sundermeier and supple Dovgoselets do an ardent pas de deux to “Claire de Lune,” love gets reinvented from the feet up. The young ensemble make us present at the creation of a frolicsome fin-de-siecle blow-out where an overindulgence in absinthe can produce “green fairies” for Matthew to dance with, and, for him, life can imitate art in the worst way.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Moulin Rouge – The Ballet, Auditorium Theatre in Chicago

photos by Bruce Monk

Moulin Rouge – The Ballet
Royal Winnipeg Ballet at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago
scheduled to end on November 4, 2012
for tickets call 800-982-2787 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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