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Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Midsummer is a Dream Come True

Attending Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will go down as one of the best experiences of my life. Up until that moment, I had only seen the company’s DVD version, which is wonderful by the way, but clearly not the same. And while I say this about nearly every PNB performance (I can’t help it; I’ve been a die-hard fan since I was a kid), I haven’t been this swept away by a ballet since PNB’s Romeo et Juliette.

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Kiyon Gaines as Bottom and principal dancer Carrie Imler as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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The yummy, over-the-top scenery with its robust pink roses, a shimmering spider web (complete with a gigantic spider which—being the girly girl I am—could’ve done without) and an enormous green frog brought the mythical Athenian forest glade to life.

Friday night’s cast featured Carrie Imler as the lovely and completely “duped” Titania, Jonathan Porretta as the arrogant Oberon, and Josh Spell as the deliciously mischievous Puck.

Imler has such unique versatility, it’s insane. Her dancing was nothing short of diva worthy, while her displays of affection toward Bottom were most charming.

And speaking of Bottom…kudos to Ezra Thomson! His performance as the bumbling buffoon turned donkey was so hilarious, I was wiping tears from my eyes. Thomson maintained a superb balance between smitten man (gazing down at Imler's bust -- ooh la la) and goofy animal (scratching at his fleas and continually trying to eat the small pile of greens on the ground) with aplomb.

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Josh Spell as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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Josh Spell unleashed his inner actor as the wildly entertaining Puck. I must say, I’ve never witnessed as much charisma from Spell as I did that night. He truly *was* Puck! He completely captured the essence of his character, which I hope leads to more roles of this nature in the near future, whether in or outside of PNB.

Next, I’ve got just two words for you: Jonathan Porretta. Need I say more? (No, of course not but I will for the sake of the review.) Whether he’s pulling out all the stops (did you see him as the Jester in Cinderella? Hello!), or holding himself back just a smidge as the slightly in need of anger management Oberon, Porretta delivers. It’s just that simple.

Maria Chapman’s performance as the pining Helena was spot-on. I felt terrible for her as she chased after Lucien Postlewaite’s completely disinterested and downright disgusted Demetrius. (I mean, you can’t blame a girl for trying, right? Demetrius is quite a dish!) Chalnessa Eames and Olivier Wevers made for an adoring pair as Hermia and Lysander. Their tender glances and gentle embraces were nothing short of ahhh worthy. Especially enjoyable were the moments following Puck’s faux pas, as both Demetrius and Lysander fought for the affections of the completely baffled Helena, who in turn is doing everything she can to avoid being pummeled by the scorned Hermia. (Loved it!)

Ariana Lallone gave a knockout performance as the gravity-defying Hippolyta. She wielded that golden bow like it was more of an extension of her arm versus an actual prop. And while I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; the stage will appear decidedly empty without her presence next season. (Sob!)

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Ariana Lallone as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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Rachel Foster’s petite beauty was highlighted to perfection in her role as the Butterfly. Her dancing was energetic, inspiring and just freaking awesome.

Last but certainly by no means least (you know what I’m getting at right?), is the Divertissement in Act II. I’ve got to be honest and say that Carla Korbes and Jeffrey Stanton brought the house down with their completely flawless, absolutely thrilling performance. I didn’t think it was humanly possible to extend one’s arms back, back, back like that, but obviously I was wrong. (Thank you for setting me straight, Carla. :)) The applause they received was nearly deafening, but extremely well deserved. Bravo!

Pacific Northwest Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream runs through April 17th. Tickets are available by visiting PNB.org

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