Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Nashville Ballet's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a pure delight for the whole family, April 24 - 26, 2015.

Nashville Ballet presents:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 24 – 26; All ages)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Fri – Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $28 – $89

Your family’s in for a truly magical treat this weekend with Nashville Ballet’s sensational production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We caught the show’s final dress rehearsal Thursday night, and this fun, whimsical and highly entertaining ballet is excellent for kids whether they’re familiar with ballet or it’s their first experience. In fact, it’s one of the best main stage performances in Nashville Ballet’s history regarding the family-friendly factor. Its one-hour-and-45-minute running time (including a 20-minute intermission) is perfect for young audience members.

Based on William Shakespeare’s comedy about true and mistaken love — and a mischief-making elf named Puck — the Nashville Ballet’s staging includes the Nashville Symphony performing music by Felix Mendelssohn along with amazing guest vocalists Julie Cox and Vicki White with support from Nashville Children’s Choir during a couple of scenes.

No need to worry if you’re not familiar with the storyline from The Bard’s play — the playbill includes a synopsis by Artist Director Paul Vasterling offering the rundown of who loves whom and whose love is unrequited … and the tangle that ensues when Puck works his mischievous love spell. It seems a little complicated, but the staging makes it easier to grasp in the opening scene as the dancers make their way onto the stage against a black backdrop featuring text projections introducing the characters and their initial relationships. It’s in the opening sequence where you’ll see the full blast of Campbell Baird’s exquisite costume design; the colors fiercely pop against the black background!

Long-time company members Jon Upleger and Sadie Bo Sommer serve as Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, queen of the fairies, respectively. Both dancers bring an endearing element to the stage, along with a good bit of humor in their roles. On a side note, Sommer takes her final bow at the end of this season, her 14th with Nashville Ballet. Her performance as Titania is delightfully memorable and as always, she dances with enchanting elegance.

Other principal cast members who deliver outstanding moments in A Midsummer Night’s Dream include Damian Drake (Theseus), Keenan McLaren (Hippolyta), Mollie Sansone (Helena), Christopher Stuart (Demetrius), Judson Veach (Lysander) and Kayla Rower (Hermia). The 43-member youth cast from School of Nashville Ballet adds much to the show’s explicit charm — it’s always incredible to see youngsters on stage in a professional production, and in this case, they represent the strength of the school’s solid training.

Guest artist Owen Thorne gives a highly animated rendition of Nick Bottom, the Rustic weaver whom Puck turns into a donkey. Thorne brings the comedy of his character to the forefront that tickles the funny bone in old and young alike. Kids in particular will enjoy watching him dance about while donning the large donkey head along with the comical “romance” that surfaces when Titania wakes up in love with him as a result of the magic spell.

Also ranking high on humor is A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s “play within a play” toward the end of Act 2 when the team of Rustics — Thorne, Nathan Young, Augusto Cezar, Gerald Watson, Jordan Wooten and Nicolas Scheuer — deliver their hysterically bumbling rendition of Romeo and Juliet at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.

The unforgettable standout performance in the show comes from Brett Sjoblom as Puck (Sjoblom plays this role during the Saturday show; Augusto Cezar fills those shoes Friday and Sunday). Sjoblom’s fluid movements are masterful in matching his phenomenal ability to portray Puck’s mischievous persona. Sjoblom brings an ethereal quality to the elf, and his facial mannerisms and body language work wonders in boldly bringing this character to life. It’s great fun to watch Sjoblom as well when he’s not in the direct spotlight as his character hangs to the side of the stage admiring with gleeful expression and awe the handiwork of his unfolding skulduggery.

Nashville Ballet certainly infuses a lot of energy and absolute fun into the final production of its 2014-15 season. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a pure delight!

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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