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Joffrey Ballet In Cranko's 'Romeo And Juliet'

May 07, 1987|LEWIS SEGAL | Times Dance Writer

Considering the big risk the Joffrey Ballet took less than three years ago when it first ventured John Cranko's full-length "Romeo and Juliet," it's amazing how comfortable the company now looks in the ballet--how successfully the dancers manage the unorthodox caractere -flavored dance style, the vigorous but scarcely veristic narrative pantomime, the florid ensemble acting.

Some things may never be fully satisfying in the production--the lack of mature performers in the crucial character roles, for instance. But it's certain that as a company-building, reputation-enhancing vehicle, this Joffrey gamble has paid off handsomely.

The performance by familiar principals, Tuesday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, revealed that a leveling-off process has taken place in the last year. Some of the former peaks of this "Romeo and Juliet" are now lower--notably Glenn Edgerton's Romeo, currently a bit mannered, and lacking his former degree of concentration.

However, some of the valleys have definitely risen: Dawn Caccamo's characterization of Juliet has gained a surety and detail previously missing, and the way her bourrees run away with her (in the ballroom and balcony encounters with Romeo) is utterly adorable.

David Palmer continues to be a memorable Mercutio, playful but with a dangerous, sardonic edge and always spectacularly virtuosic in the technical challenges.

Of the rest, only Charlene Gehm (Lady Capulet) achieves any complexity or depth, but at least Jerel Hilding (Tybalt), Mark Goldweber (Benvolio) and Tom Mossbrucker (Paris) define distinctive personalities. However, Jerry Kokich (Lord Capulet), Cameron Basden (the Nurse) and Paul Shoemaker (Friar Laurence and the Duke) are miscast. They execute their stage business proficiently but have no force or credibility in the drama.

As always, the corps members (including Joffrey II dancers) bring great energy to the marketplace scenes and, in Act II--exactly where other "Romeo and Juliet" ballets falter--they give the whole evening a lift in the surging carnival divertissement .

Juergen Rose's designs still bedazzle--especially in the scarlet-and-gold pre-ballroom sequence and the copper-and-black Pillow Dance immediately following.

Allan Lewis conducts Prokofiev's score a bit stiffly, and the playing remains patchy (especially in passages with exposed brass).

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