***** (five stars)
An exhilarating, effervescent, exultant, eye-catching extravaganza, Starstruck is the perfect choice for Scottish Ballet’s first ‘live in front of an audience’ production. Artistic Director Christopher Hampson, working with designer Lez Brotherton and Patricia Ward Kelly, Gene Kelly’s widow, revived the piece – Pas de Dieux – which Kelly created for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1960. Pas de Dieux uses George Gershwin’s Concerto in F: Hampson has added a prologue danced to some gorgeous music by Frédéric Chopin. Alas, we didn’t have a live orchestra present [we will for this winter’s Nutcracker], but Scottish Ballet’s own orchestra had recorded the soundtrack.
The ballet opens with the Choreographer coming into a contemporary rehearsal room to set the scene. Company members enter and give us a delightful insight into the different relationships, attitudes and rivalries which enliven company life as class begins. The Star Ballerina enters and makes her presence felt in no uncertain terms as the rehearsal begins.
On Mount Olympus Aphrodite, married to Zeus, is bored, and willingly joins Eros in a flight to the south of France, where they start interfering in the lives of the mortals they’ve been watching from on high. Eros makes a handsome Lifeguard forget his Fiancée and respond to Aphrodite’s lures: all too soon Zeus realises what’s going on and comes down to sort things out. Life mirrors art, and the Star Ballerina/ Aphrodite decides to make the Choreographer/Zeus jealous by flirting with the Stagehand: but all ends happily with a triumphant performance of the new ballet at the Paris Opéra. The company slowly leave the stage and Gene Kelly smiles down at us from the steps outside the Palais Garnier.
Need I say that the Glasgow audience responded equally enthusiastically to this production with prolonged applause both for the dancers that evening and for their courage and determination in keeping going throughout all the traumas of lockdown?
All the company were superb – I love that they are all individuals, not a homogenous uni-size corps – and richly deserved their applause. Sophie Martin and Evan Loudon were commandingly impressive as the Star Ballerina/ Aphrodite and the Composer/ Zeus, while Bruno Micchiardi was an exuberantly cheeky and athletic Pianist/ Eros. Claire Souet and Javier Andreu were a wonderfully loving and besotted Fiancée and Lifeguard, and Nicholas Shoesmith made the most of his brief cameo as the Stagehand. Gene Kelly’s choreography was a wonderful mixture of classical ballet and what in my ignorance I can only call ‘show dance’ [think Singin’ in the Rain and the long Gotta dance sequence] – a challenge to which the entire cast rose with enthusiasm and panache.
An added bonus was the presence of Patricia Ward Kelly, who watched the show and then came on stage at the final curtain to receive the grateful thanks and applause of audience and cast. The whole evening was an uplifting celebration of the joy of dance and a homage to the genius of Gene Kelly, who changed the look of dance. Don’t miss it!
If you can’t get to see Starstruck in Inverness, Aberdeen, or Glasgow, there’s a full-length feature film which will receive its world premiere on Friday 26 November and be available on demand until December 5. Tickets are on sale now via the Scottish Ballet website and via Marquee TV from October.
Scottish Ballet presents Starstruck, Theatre Royal, Glasgow.Tour will visit Inverness, Eden Court Theatre, Aberdeen, His Majesty’s and Edinburgh Festival Theatre