What’s not to love about a story ballet?
Many ballets enchant simply with music and dance, but layer that music and dance with period costumes, scenery and a timeless drama, and who could not be intrigued?
And there are few story ballets more rewarding than Peter Martins’ lush “Romeo + Juliet,” which was performed by New York City Ballet on Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Sure, the practical scenery is chunky, but everything else about this version of Prokofiev’s masterpiece is gorgeous and mesmerizing.
Mainly, it’s the cast — many of whom can be counted among the originals when the ballet premiered in 2007. And rather than continue in their roles as if walking through a tired routine, they have matured into their parts, making their interpretations stronger, more effective and affecting.
Sterling Hyltin as Juliet is amazing as she convincingly grows from frolicsome adolescent into a desperate woman who is being forced, by her parents, to marry a man other than Romeo. She calibrates her emotions to a perfect pitch, to the anxious delight in first seeing her Romeo to the agony just before she downs the sleeping potion.
Robert Fairchild as Romeo is also tremendous — a heartbreaker of giant proportions. His delight in Juliet seeps from every pore of his body. He is in love, and every gesture, even the corny ones like clutching his heart, rings sincere.
But Daniel Ulbricht, as Mercutio, steals every scene he is in. He inhabits this jolly role fully. His bouncy and sporty dash are pure joy. And because the audience completely adores his charms (who wouldn’t love a man with boundless, jocular energy), it’s depressing when he dies at the sword of Tybalt.
The surprise here was Gonzalo Garcia as the goateed Tybalt. Garcia is usually so effervescent that there was doubt he could pull off Tybalt’s hateful treachery. But he also draws from an unseen depth to deliver a sneering Tybalt with a menacing coldness.
It is also gratifying to watch Darci Kistler as Lady Capulet. She also originated the role, and it’s just wonderful to see her back on stage. She is a regal and consummate performer who is an ideal matriarch.
Georgina Pazcoguin is the chipper nurse who dotes over Juliet with pride. Ask la Cour played Lord Capulet with authority, while Christian Tworzyanski danced the unwanted suitor Paris with reserve. Jonathan Stafford offered a thoughtful, reverent Friar Laurence, but the young Justin Peck asserted only mild authority as the Prince of Verona.
Then there is the music that triggers every emotion — the bombastic march at the Capulet masquerade ball, the skiddering flute for Juliet and even the mandolins for the children — and adds up to a score that leads the way. With Clotilde Otranto at the podium, the orchestra sounded equally bold and delicate.
Unfortunately, “Romeo + Juliet” will only be staged two more times — tonight and at Saturday’s matinees. Martins’ “Romeo + Juliet” is a must-see.