Left – Shane Wuerthner and Mia Heathcote. Cover – Yanela Pinera and Matthew Lawrence. Photos – David Kelly
Queensland Ballet pulls out all the stops to bring Australia its premiere of Derek Deane’s Strictly Gershwin. This ‘s wonderful, ‘s marvelous production showcased all of the glamour, romance and pizazz of some of the most beloved Gershwin music from the Jazz Age. Queensland’s artistic talent shines brightest with Queensland Ballet and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra collaborating for what is surly going to be one of the most memorable stage productions to reach Australian audiences this year.
Strictly Gershwin is unlike any other ballet or live musical theatre performance of a Gershwin classic that you’re ever likely to see. It is an electrifying and thrillingly poised ride through George and Ira Gershwin’s music from their larger than life Broadway creations through to the seductive and splendid silver screen tunes they composed for Hollywood. Gershwin music is synonymous with the romantic ideals of post war America, jazz, big bands, Broadway musical theatre and debonair dance routines, but ballet? Ballet isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when I think about George and Ira Gershwin. While there is the occasional moment when ballet’s vocabulary of movement feels like it lacks the earthy, sexy range and oomph I relish seeing with more contemporary forms of dance, this modern ballet still created a stunning visual and a unique interpretative lens through which to view and enjoy the Gershwin brother’s work. Deane’s pairing of contemporary ballet with all that the Gershwin’s are famous for, is the fuel that ignites (what I can only imagine is) the spark of wonder and joy that someone whose first Gershwin experience occurred during the time these musical brothers were at their most prolific.
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra opens the performance placed prominently high and to the rear of the stage with conductor Gareth Valentine setting the playful tone for show. The pace for the performance is already soaring when we get the first taste of the ballet with QB principal dancers Laura Hidalgo & Victor Estevez. Any doubts that the energy and lines of modern ballet won’t sit satisfactorily beside any Gershwin grooves and swoons is soon allayed. After the opening overture the theatre is abuzz. The elation continues for the entire show with strong and stunning vocal performances from Rachael Beck, Michael Falzon, Alexandra Flood and Luke Kennedy, riveting and rousing tap routines from Bill Simpson and Kris Kerr combined with captivating and dreamy dance sequences from choreographer and director Derek Deane all superbly performed by the distinguished and magnificent dancers of the Queensland Ballet.
There is never a dull moment, the music embraces you, the ballet and the costumes are mesmerizing, and the vocals are a pure delight as this Gershwin spectacular journeys through Broadway tunes, lilting love songs, An American in Paris, Hollywood spectacle, Rhapsody in Blue and Summertime.
The ensemble of performers assembled for the Australian production of Strictly Gershwin flawlessly bring the grandeur and grace of George and Ira Gershwin’s music to marvelous life. The Queensland Ballet in collaboration with the QSO, vocalists Beck, Falzon, Flood and Kennedy and guest pianist Daniel Le (whose performance of Rhapsody in Blue is beautifully stirring) parallel and rival any international production of Derek Deane’s Strictly Gershwin.
Queensland Ballet and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present
Devised, choreographed & directed by Derek Deane
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 27 May — 4 June, 2016
With Queensland Symphony Orchestra