Koch Theater was a popular place Saturday evening on Valentine’s Day for NYCB’s Romeo+Juliet, with occupied seats in the rarely-filled fifth ring extreme sides and long lines for the men’s restroom at intermission (always my indicator of a packed house).
The Peter Martins 2007 version is not up to the Frederick Ashton version that ABT performs. Problems with the NYCB production start with the brightly colored, color coordinated costumes; Romeo is in a bright teal; Mercutio in purple; Benvolio in blue; and Tybalt in yellow with the Montague clan in green and Capulets in red. Is there any way to turn off the color when watching this? Why is Romeo’s identity hidden by his mask in the ballroom scene with his flaming bright teal outfit revealed earlier in the marketplace battle scene? The scenery is also a problem, with moveable grey walls and a strange red Chagall-looking backdrop.
The flow is disjointed at times in this two-act ballet with repetitive steps throughout. Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild were the leads and performed with dramatic flair despite the production limitations. Both were the leads in the premier of this production in 2007 when they were young, up and coming members of the company. Robbert was infatuated by Juliet from the moment he saw her at the Capulet ball and filled the role with a confident, at times boyish charm. Sterling was a joyous Juliet, captivated by her Romeo. It is unfortunate that the choreography does not allow them to reach their dramatic potential.
The individual performances were entertaining starting with Daniel Ulbricht as Mercutio. He had a fine ballroom solo filled with double rond de jams el l’air, sauté de basques, and interesting and innovative character turns from second position. He added a number of comedic touches as he flirted with many of the women in between his athletic steps. I’ve always been a fan of Daniel and hope that he can be given a chance to break out of the short-guy soloist mold into staring roles such as Romeo. He was quite effective in the dramatic Prodigal Son with Maria Kowroski in 2013.
Joaquin De Luz was an expressive Tybalt, showing dramatic intensity that he picked up from his days at ABT. Unlike other versions, Tybalt has an athletic solo in the Martins version filled with turns in second and pirouettes to a Don Quixote-type double tour to the knee. Joaquin is getting up there in age, but he still has the goods to perform bravura athletic feats.