Romeo & Juliet Suite (review)

SOH-LADP-Romeo-and-Juliet-photo-by-Daniel-BoudShakespeare’s much-loved romantic tragedy is given a fresh modern take as L.A. Dance Projects presents the Australian premiere of Romeo & Juliet Suite at the Sydney Opera House.

Benjamin Millepied, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, takes his choreographic and filmmaking expertise to new heights, with an exemplary contemporary vision that fuses dance and cinema to tell the world’s most famous love story set to Prokofiev’s majestic score.

From the outset it is clear that Millepied is not afraid to push boundaries, challenging the notion of queer representation on stage with various gendered pairings – opening night audiences were treated to the coupling of David Adrian Freeland, Jr. as Romeo and Mario Gonzalez as Juliet.

SOH LADP Romeo and Juliet photo by Daniel Boud 3A key element of François-Pierre Couture’s sparse design was a large cinema screen at the rear of the stage, combined with Camille Assaf’s costumes, it allowed the dancers to be the main focus. Couture’s lighting in hues of red and blue effectively delineating the feuding parties.

The screen also provided a platform for Sebastien Marcovici’s superb live cinematography featuring close-ups of the onstage and offstage action and a chance for the audience to look beyond the stage into the back stage workings of the theatre.

Utilising the rear stage, a decadent rave, took the audience on a voyeuristic journey through the Dance of the Knights; while the foyers and the below stage corridors and storage areas became play areas of love, hate and death.

One of the many highlights was the Opera House’s outdoor forecourt setting the stage for the story’s famous balcony scene as our young lovers danced a thrilling pas de deux to the backdrop of Sydney’s skyline and Vivid’s glittering lights. A cameo appearance by an unsuspecting seagull brought much delight to this stunning intimate moment.

SOH-LADP-Romeo-and-Juliet-photo-by-Daniel-Boud-2Not afraid to disperse with Romeo & Juliet‘s traditional casting, Millepied effectively stripped the narrative to four key characters, our two lovers, Mercutio and Tybalt, providing an unexpected twist.

There was so much joy and beauty in watching Freeland, Jr. as Romeo and Gonzalez as Juliet. Not only was their dancing precise, their natural chemistry added another dimension to their performance. Shu Kinouchi as Mercutio and Lorrin Brubaker as Tybalt both gave commanding performances.

This outstanding quartet were supported by stellar performances from Jeremy Coachman, Courtney Conovan, Marirosa Crawford, Matisse D’Aloisio, Daphne Fernberger, Audrey Sides, Hope Spears, Aidan Tyssee, Nayomi Van Brunt and Brodie Wolf.

Defiantly delivering an outstanding performance, L.A. Dance Projects has taken a popular classic and reimagined it for a new audience to enjoy!

Romeo & Juliet Suite
Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Performance: Wednesday 5 June 2024
Season continues to 9 June 2024
Information and Bookings:

Images: David Adrian Freeland, Jr. as Romeo and Mario Gonzalez as Juliet – photo by Daniel Boud | The Company of Romeo & Juliet Suite – photo by Daniel Boud | Lorrin Brubaker as Tybalt and Shu Kinouchi as Mercutio – photo by Daniel Boud

Review: Rohan Shearn