Romeo and Juliet by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at the Lab Theater

Romeo, JulietCollide Theatrical Dance Company came flying out on the stage last night with an exuberant, fresh interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Have you not imagined Juliet tap dancing her despair over her banished Romeo, to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It?” It was stunning! What of the feuding Capulets and Montagues with more attitude than sense, flying into the air, all raging fists and frustration, to the music of White Stripes?

It all makes perfect sense, and I’m not one to quickly embrace an updated classic play. (This one is set in Brooklyn in the year 2000.) Director and choreographer Regina Peluso, the creative mind behind Collide, got it right. But this is not just about a novel approach; this company is all about good dancing and it is wonderful. Peluso’s choreography is edgy and bright—and absolutely appropriate for her vision. She really does bring new ideas to familiar territory—with fire in the raging confrontations between the Capulets and Montagues, and with a fragile naiveté in Romeo and Juliet’s exquisite pas de deux’s.

A live string quartet and drummer accompanies, playing songs also by Lady Gaga, U2, Muse, Nirvana, Green Day, Leona Lewis, Sarah MacLachlan, The Eurythmics and Oasis in arrangements by Chuck Krenner, who also played viola. Krenner made no attempt to change the beautiful inherent quality of the quartet, and fearlessly took on some heavy-duty rock and pop songs. In fact, it was the consistent and classic sound of the ensemble that so effectively underpinned the show’s cohesive style.

Julie Hatlestad as Juliet was just lovely, dancing not as a prima ballerina, but as a young girl in love, fluid and unadorned. Patrick Jeffrey plays a boyish and even awkward Romeo. Acting may not be in his repertoire, but, oh, the dancing! Nothing tethers this young man to the earth. As a pair, they broke through the maudlin pall that seems to trail behind so many versions of this play and embrace, instead, the singular joy that Romeo and Juliet feel in their new love.

The dancing ensemble, too, was solid and versatile. I loved the tapping, choreographed by Geoff Higgins. Although it was less than precisely together, the clattering, noisy energy lifted those fight scenes to an angry intensity. The character of Paris, Juliet’s spurned suitor, gets more to do in this production. Lucas Melsha, a tall and powerful dancer, is a daunting match for the young kid, Romeo. Good casting.

Sasha Andreev and Emily Grodzik provide connecting bits of narrative, primarily playing the friar and the nurse, respectively. Stepping out of identifiable roles, they also sing when the lyric is needed to power the scene.

What topped them all, however, was the instrumental of MacLachlan’s “Angel” in the final scene; the timing of its one line, “Where be these enemies?” couldn’t have been more effective.

This production has a consistency and polish that illustrates how much the company has matured in a very short time—and proves me right, I have to say. I suggested after seeing their first production that this is a company to watch. I’m telling you now, it’s time for you to take me seriously and see this show. It runs through April 20th at the Lab Theater.



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