About three years ago I took a solo journey to the Ahmanson to watch Matthew Bourne's direction of Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance. It ended up being the best performance I had ever seen at this venue. Although I was somewhat new to the idea of "dance theatre" and at first off-put by the lack of speaking in the performance, as I would quickly learn, the genre did what it does best and served the story with premium effect. In act 1, Aurora fell asleep in 1913 and in act 2 she woke up in 2013. I loved that unexpected surprise, combined with the dancers effortless movement connected to strong story moments and captivating production design style, from costumes to set and musical flourish. Bourne had once again blessed Center Theatre Group with his English charm and charisma. So when I found out his adaptation of The Red Shoes would be making a brief engagement in LA, there was no way I wouldn't be found at the opening night performance, sporting a ballet bun and a red lip. And I'm not gonna lie; I was super stoked when a woman in the bathroom at intermission asked me if I was IN THE SHOW. Winning.
It wasn't until the first act was complete that I realized I hadn't even taken out my notebook to make performance notes! Which ended up being totally fine. My friend Jonathan and I were so mesmerized by the end of the act one that we were just gaping with joy for a few minutes at intermission. Jonathan, by the way, is an amazing champion of the American Theatre and a wonderfully supportive enthusiast of my theatre career. He is an associate producer over at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz and I am consistently wowed by his work as a director. I'm super looking forward to his production of Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation at the USC graduate acting program this November. He's definitely a kid to watch in the LA theatre scene.
ANYWAY, before I continue to go gaga over Jonathan, the Jack to my Karen, we both agreed that the show was gorgeous and that the dancers were breathtakingly talented (literally, they'd take a running jump up into each others arms and I'd find myself holding my breath)...but there were some second act problems! Jonathan mentioned that he had never seen a show with such direct specificity that was still so unclear! Out on the plaza after the show we caught up with two friends of mine, a theatrical agent an actress; they also did not understand what had happened in act two and we all had our own interpretations. Look, it was still an astonishingly good show, but I do think I appreciated the clarity within the storytelling of Sleeping Beauty just a little bit more.
Does the show make me want to change anything about myself? That I'm not sure. I appreciated the two men fighting over the same girl...which made me hopeful that that could be a possibility for me in certain situations...ok yes, so it kind of fulfilled my Tina a la Bob's Burgers status daydreams of having two hot, well-grooving men fighting for my affections. There could also be something in there about working hard to make it to the top and killing yourself for your art and when to stop and breathe and focus on the people around you. But no, instead the play fulfilled my dreams of men fighting over me, wow Isabella. That's what I took away from this play. That and gorgeous artistry on a budget that I can only dream of being blessed with someday. Thanks to donors like you.
If you get the chance, the American premiere of The Red Shoes runs for a very limited engagement at the Ahmanson through October 1st. It won't be here long, so catch it if you can, to get a taste of Matthew Bourne's prolific work and a very strong opening to the Ahmanson's new season.