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Ballet review: Coppelia @ Birmingham Hippodrome

Something has happened at Birmingham Royal Ballet and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s their recent successful tour of Japan that’s given them a new glow, but whatever the cause it’s really rather wonderful.

Sometimes a show no matter how much everything seems firmly in place can feel tired and flat. But in BRB’s new mounting of Sir Peter Wright’s production of Coppelia, right from the moment the orchestra launches into Delibes’ sprightly romantic score every detail comes to life as fresh as new paint.

Superbly intelligent casting has a good deal to do with it. Elisha Willis, while an excellent dancer, has often seemed to me rather inexpressive, concentrating on her steps at the expense of characterisation.  But here she reveals a real talent for acting and glows in the comic role of village girl Swanilda, funny, feisty, her apparent ethereal fragility masking a powerful strength. Delicious.

But the real hit of the evening was her partner, Matthew Lawrence. Matthew stood out even at his first appearance in the corps de ballet and casting him here in the leading role of Franz, Swanilda’s sweetheart caused a sensation, bringing cheers for him at the end. He has every physical grace and balletic facility, not showy, but carefully integrated into the comic role of this rustic likely lad with a subtly roving eye. BRB Director David Bintley has obviously found his new male star, and one who can really act.  I hope we can now look forward to seeing him in some of the other great roles – he would make an excellent Albrecht in Giselle.

The evening’s other main accolade must of course go to the superb David Morse as the mischievous Dr. Coppelius whose mechanical dolls cause so much comic mayhem. Devotees of BRB will know him well for his many character roles and here he lends a delightfully lubricious air to the dotty old doll-maker who is secretly longing for love.

Add in the handsome gentlemen and lovely girls of the company, the sumptuous costumes and superbly detailed sets and believe me, BRB have a hit show on their hands. The proof is that Tuesday night’s performance had to be added to their usual four nights owing to demand.

If you’re too busy for Coppelia, next week BRB will be presenting their double bill Passion and Ecstasy featuring Allegri Diversi and Carmina Burana so all is not lost.

For tickets phone Birmingham Hippodrome on 0844 338 5000 or go online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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