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SEPTEMBER 22-30, 2000

Artistic Director Jonas Kage gave Ballet West audiences a season opener rich in laughter as the humorous and complex characters of Shakespeare's prose took the stage in John Cranko's only full-length comedy ballet, The Taming of the Shrew.

The production was exquisitely staged by Cranko repetiteur Jane Bourne of the Stuttgart Ballet, while the National Ballet of Canada provided extravagantly painted sets and costumes designed by Susan Benson.

Two casts brought vibrant personality and feeling to Shakespeare's social commentary on gender roles. Christopher Ruud and Kristin Hakala made stunning debuts in their first principal roles as the macho, egotistical Petruchio and the delicate, love-stricken Bianca. Ruud was utterly convincing as Petruchio, excelling in the highly acrobatic choreography with natural strength and boldness. He agrees to marry the sassy yet grouchy Katherina, portrayed powerfully by Maggie Wright. Both Ruud and Wright radiated strong personalities, especially in the contentious scenes where they each struggled to dominate. Ballet West met the challenge of Cranko's exceptionally athletic and intricate choreography with brilliance and ease, while maintaining narrative integrity of the ballet.

Seth Olson and Michiyo Hayashi offered a delightfully different interpretation of the couple. Olson was pompous, all right, but in an ironically polite way. Hayashi's portrayal of Katherina maintained her defiance while still reflecting a more emotional and tender side. The chemistry between Olson and Hayashi was undeniable.

The wedding of Petruchio and Katherina in Act I proved to be one of the most entertaining parts of the ballet with both casts. The stage was full of excitement and commotion. Enthusiastic wedding guests and bridesmaids shared the stage with the unlikely couple-to-be, with the bride being anything but consenting. Stephen Gregory added to the humor of the "blessed occasion" with his impression of the timid, wintry priest who weds Petruchio and Katherina.

With her long lines and fluid transitions, Hakala, making her principal role debut as Katherina's younger sister, was perfectly suited for the delicately charming role. Hakala's real-life husband, Tong Wang, played the role of the charismatic Lucentio, who wins Bianca's hand in marriage. Together Hakala and Wang performed as a dashing and finely honed partnership. In the alternate cast, lyrical Jessica Harston made a flirtatious and playful Bianca, winning the heart of a gentle Lucentio, danced by Olson, who once again accomplished an engaging connection with his partner.

Comical performances worthy of awards came from Jeffrey Rogers as Gremio and Paul Murphy as Petruchio's servant. Rogers attempted to woo Bianca's favor by serenading her in a pathetically screeching voice. Murphy gave a hilarious impression of a maimed ogre of sorts to play a prank on Katherina. It was their clever spontaneity that had the audience laughing uncontrollably.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Previous Article:IN BLUE AND GOLD.

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