Ballet theater's 'Beauty and the Beast' is eye-catching and energetic

April 16, 1995|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

In the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis' "Beauty and the Beast," performed at Maryland Hall last weekend, there were no dancing candles, clocks or teapots.

In the version designed for the stage by choreographer Edward Stewart, a father tells his three daughters he is leaving to visit the city. Two of them request all manner of material things, while Beauty asks only for a single rose.

The father, seeing an arbor of lovely roses, plucks one for his daughter, which angers the accursed, beastly prince who owns the garden. For this mistake in judgment the father must pay by leaving his beloved daughter with the Beast.

At the behest of a mysterious lady in blue and her spunky little unicorn, Beauty begins to adore her Beast, who allows the girl to visit her ailing father at home.

When Beauty dreams the Beast is dying, she hastens to his side and changes him into a handsome prince, even as her two sisters are turned to stone as punishment for their materialistic tendencies.

Mr. Stewart has crafted an eye-catching suite, full of colorful costumes and streamers, evocative backdrops and graceful, attractive movement from all concerned. With the exception of some shaky jumps and landings at the beginning of Act I's "Village" sequence, the dancers seemed in excellent form.

Shari Vasquez gamely battled an attack of tendinitis to dance very nicely as the Beauty, especially in the rustic, folk-inspired choreography of Act I.

Also enjoyable in the first act were the sassy movements Mr. Stewart designed for the two "Avaricious Daughters," danced with "snarky" flair by Ethel Leslie and Anmarie Touloumis.

"The Rosegarden" in Act II was highlighted by a very graceful ensemble of flowers and a gorgeous pasde deux danced by Sandra Prehoda and the exceptional David Miller, who engineered the most graceful lifts of the evening.

Ms. Prehoda returned as a cuddly, crowd-pleasing unicorn in Act III and was joined by Leslie Bradley as the cool, statuesque Lady in Blue.

Jeffrey Watson, who had conveyed true sadness as the Beast, came to life admirably in his "Handsome Prince" pas de deux with Ms. Vasquez and brought the production to an elegant, satisfying close.

From a theatrical point of view, this "Beauty and the Beast" could use some judicious editing. Act I, which contains as many nonfinal finales as Wayne Newton's nightclub act, is too long. And there are Unicorn/Lady in Blue sequences in Act III that seem a mite repetitious.

Still, BTA's "Beauty and the Beast" is full of energy and spectacle, two attributes that characterize ballet at its happy, accessible best.

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