Boston Ballet in Cranko's "Romeo and Juliet"

November 16, 2011

Boston Opera House

Boston, MA

November 3–13, 2011
Performances reviewed: Nov. 12, matinee & evening

Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet is both dark and light. Dark because Susan Benson’s sets let you see the dingy side of Renaissance Verona; the color palette tends toward grey. Light because it offers real moments of humor. For instance, the first time fighting breaks out on the street, people throw fruits clear across the stage just to add to the melee. The ladies on their way to the Capulet ball wear red, hooded capes; they lean back so far that they look like pompous—and huge—little red riding hoods doing a cakewalk. The balcony scene ends with a sweet/funny moment when Romeo, after lifting Juliet back onto the balcony, gives her one last kiss while the rest of his body dangles down.

Watching this Romeo, I suddenly understood the source of the phrase, “Lay down the gauntlet.” Tybalt throws down his glove to show Romeo that he’s egging for a fight. Romeo, determined to be peaceful with Juliet’s cousin, quietly picks up the glove and returns it to Tybalt. This small gesture spurs Mercutio to take up the gauntlet himself, and that’s when all the violence starts.

Each death by sword or dagger is rather drawn out, the most ridiculously so being Mercutio’s death, which drags on longer than Giselle’s mad scene. He plays it like a lascivious drunkard rather than a doomed man. He jokes, he flirts, he caresses, he beseeches, all before he finally droops for the last time. So Cranko has us laughing on our way to crying. Other deaths: Tybalt lunges and lurches. Romeo lovingly twirls Juliet’s hair during his dying breath, and Juliet crashes to the floor, then rocks Romeo during hers.


I saw two casts and two excellent Juliets. Erica Cornejo is the kind of dancer whose very breathing projects out to the audience. She responds to her Romeo with every fiber of her body. Her beautiful classical arms let you know of Juliet’s gracious upbringing. Misa Kuranaga is so utterly lovely that it’s easy to believe any guy would fall for her instantly. She’s dreamy, gentle, and assured, whereas Cornejo is sharper, vulnerable, and hungry for love.

Kuranaga’s Romeo, Nelson Madrigal, almost looks like Warren Beatty from the mezzanine, so they’re a couple made in heaven. Tall, curly-headed Lasha Khozashvili was a distinctive Romeo. But his partnership with Cornejo, who is much smaller, had some awkward moments, compared to the creaminess of Kuranaga and Madrigal’s partnership.

As Mercutio, Jeffrey Cirio dazzled with his pirouettes, speed, and élan. But Paulo Arrais was more playful and easygoing in the role.

Both Lorna Feijóo and Elizabeth Olds were powerful as Lady Capulet (though I wish I had seen Tai Jimenez as well). In this version, Lady Capulet becomes so distraught at Tybalt’s death that she actually climbs onto his body as they carry him away on a bier. She is way more devastated than when her own daughter is thought to be dead. (If you’ve watched the opening scenes carefully, you’ve caught a fleeting glimpse of intimacy between Lady Capulet and her nephew Tybalt.)

Prokofiev’s music is thrilling and haunting. Shards of percussion warn of danger. The Capulet ball is heavy with power. The overture to the third act is cataclysmic. The plaintive horns speak of a faraway, doomed love.


Photos, top to bottom: Misa Kuranaga and Nelson Madrigal; Sabi Varga, Kuranaga, and Madrigal. By Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet.