Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet Review – Modernizing a Classic Love Story

Rory Macleod as Romeo and Monique Jonas as Juliet in MATTHEW BOURNE'S ROMEO AND JULIET - Photo by Johan Persson
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After over 25 years of resisting re-doing ROMEO AND JULIET, Matthew Bourne finally found the perfect reason to change his mind – a great opportunity to offer superb dancers the roles of a lifetime!  Bourne has created a unique and modern story of the star-crossed lovers. Bourne’s creative and original version taps into very modern concerns which may not have troubled Shakespeare in his century – child abuse, crime, mental health, rejecting parents, teen sex, institutionalization – and result in the longest kiss in all of ballet. It was fated that Bourne would find the perfect music to fit his modern and creative ideas – which led to a completely new arrangement (and re-arrangement) of Prokofiev’s stirring composition. Prokofiev’s lush sounds became smaller and more intimate in keeping with Bourne’s vision. The Centre Theatre Group proudly presents ROMEO AND JULIET in 2024.

Monique Jonas and Rory Macleod – Photo by Johan Persson

Set in the near future at the Verona Institute, ROMEO AND JULIET creates a stark and unforgiving environment for abandoned, rejected, and/or simply troublesome kids. Move over, Nurse Ratched, and get ready for lessons on how to treat annoying adolescents who keep acting out. As guards patrol the perimeter – guards for whom affection might easily morph into molestation – cold and calculating staff offer lots of medication and barred cells. For this is a place where pills take the place of candies and hugs. Where one of the guards named Tybalt (Adam Galbraith) has his eye (and more) on the pretty, vulnerable Juliet (Monique Jonas). Enter Senator Montague and his wife (Alan Vincent and Daisy May Kemp) with their bothersome, very difficult son Romeo (Paris Fitzpatrick). A teen who obviously needs some treatment at the Verona Institute. When the two lost teens meet, the purest of love (and maybe some lust) bring passion and life into their shadowy world. We all know how that turns out.

Jackson Fisch, Harry Ondrak-Wright, Cameron Flynn, Paris Fitzpatrick, and Daisy May Kemp – Photo by Johan Persson

Director and choreographer Matthew Bourne has outdone himself in this contemporary ROMEO AND JULIET. Ably assisted by lively, malleable, uber-talented dancers, Bourne has fashioned a tale for today with talents of tomorrow. It is hard to believe that these nubile dancers have bones in their fluid bodies as they weave, wind, and twist through their steps with meandering lurches, staggers, and impossible moves. Kudos to the pair of lovers, who are distilled passion as they physically configure their love. And don’t forget that very long kiss. Lez Brotherston’s set and costume design are perfect for the story, with Paule Constable’s lighting and Paul Groothuis’ sound cementing the scene. Terry Davies has fashioned new orchestrations of the Prokofiev score which add to and embellish the overall mood. And don’t forget the skills of the New Adventures Orchestra conducted by Brett Morris. Bourne’s ROMEO AND JULIET is double cast.

Alan Vincent, Daisy May Kemp, and Rory Macleod – Photo by Johan Persson

ROMEO AND JULIET is a fantastic journey in dance which captures Shakespeare’s premise while adding some modern concerns. Although some might find it disconcerting that Shakespeare’s main theme of two warring factions/families eventually united in grief doesn’t work in Bourne’s version, ROMEO AND JULIET is still more than worth watching. Don‘t miss this production.

Monique Jonas – Photo by Johan Persson

ROMEO AND JULIET runs through February 25, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays (added Thursday 2/22 matinee performance at 2 p.m.; no performances on Wednesday 2/5 or Sunday 2/25 at 6:30 p.m.) The Ahmanson Theatre is located at 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90002. Tickets start at $35. For information and reservations, call 213-628-2772 or go online.

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