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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008

Mid-Winter Relief

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Guest choreographer Bruce Wells’ adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Milwaukee Ballet couldn’t come at a better time. With thoughts of post-snow warmer weather routinely tantalizing the mind of each Milwaukeean, this fanciful retelling of the Shakespeare play will surely be a welcome treat for those seeking escape in the arts.

Facing the challenge of bringing a fresh perspective to a well-known story, Wells relishes finding new ways to engage audiences already familiar with the classic tale. “I certainly had a vision that utilized children in the cast [Wells’ employs a children’s choir]. Children love to see themselves on the stage so this makes it an entertaining experience for an audience member of any age,” he says.

Wells’ rendition focuses largely on mischievous Puck and starcrossed lovers Titania and Oberon. The tale is fleshed out with fairies, wood nymphs, magic potions, mystical flowers and mistaken identities. Also in the cast are two live vocalists that preside over the children’s choir.

Since rendering A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1984 as resident choreographer of the Boston Ballet, Wells has mounted the production 15 times, including a run in Milwaukee 11 years ago. Felix Mendelssohn’s familiar score has long been a fixture in the production and helps add to the mystical and magical energy that pervades the bulk of the performance. According to Wells the music, as performed beautifully by the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, will transport listeners “into a magical place filled with elves, fairies and the invisible energy that lives deep in the forests of our dreams and fantasies.”

A number of the performers have been given dual-roles due to the sizeable cast of characters and the lesser number of dancers in the company. This has not been an obstacle in any way. Having worked closely with Milwaukee Ballet in the past, Wells has a fondness and appreciation for the city. “Everybody functions so cohesively, so as a guest it is wonderful to be here. I always love coming here and there is always a feeling of coming home when I return. Milwaukee is most definitely a city conducive to growth through the arts in that everybody wants the best possible product, and that is how a world-class ballet operation is run.”

For Wells, the accessibility of the piece is part of its charm. “It’s not a challenging evening,” he says. “It’s light, it’s frothy, it’s under two hours. It’s perfect for a date or for anyone who has ever thought about attending a ballet, but shied away.

This show will be a welcome surprise to anyone who ever thought they couldn’t possibly enjoy a ballet.” The production runs Feb. 21-24 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
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