Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Ballet, “Mirror Mirror”

On Sunday, May 18th, we saw the Milwaukee Ballet’s performance of “Mirror Mirror,” a new story ballet by Michael Pink, based upon the story of “Snow White.” This is quite a fresh and original adaptation, with a dramatic and emotional score by Philip Feeney.

In the ballet, Snow White’s father is not a king, but rather a farmer who owns an apple orchard (Erik Johnson). A star falls into the lap of his wife, Beatrice, and becomes a fragment of mirror. Beatrice (Courtney Kramer) sees in it that she will bear a child by Josef and realizes that it is a magic mirror, and treasures it. Years later, when the child Snow White has grown into a young girl (Georgia Pink), Beatrice is set upon by the faceless Demons of the Mirror and killed.

The demons are the heralds and scouts for the witch Claudia (Susan Gartell), who entrances Josef and marries him to become Snow White’s stepmother. Even at the artistically Gothic wedding scene, we see that Claudia is not only jealous of the attentions of every other man present, she is also jealous of Josef’s attention to his now-grown daughter (Luz San Miguel).

Snow White is upset when Josef gifts her mother’s mirror to Claudia. In her chambers, Claudia inserts the mirror piece into the magic mirror she already possesses, and we see that the Demons of the Mirror answer to her.

Claudia attempts to befriend Snow White, but is rebuffed. Josef arrives in time to see Snow White lash out at Claudia. In revenge, Claudia “vamps”—there is no other suitable word for it—Snow White’s chief suitor, Gustav (David Hovhannisyan). At the party celebrating Snow White’s birthday, it is apparent that something is wrong due to the possessive touches Claudia puts on Gustav, and the way he freezes like a rabbit before a serpent, when she is near. When Claudia demands of the mirror who is fairest, the image of Snow White appears.

Enraged, Claudia also seduces Gustav’s father, Wilhelm (Ryan Martin) and demands that he kill Snow White. Wilhelm takes Snow White into the forest, but, instead of killing her, takes the locket she had from Beatrice as proof of her death, stains his hunting knife with his own blood, and urges Snow White to escape.

He returns to Claudia with the “proof.” Claudia tastes the blood with ghoulish glee, but, when the mirror shows Snow White still alive, she hurls Wilhelm against the mirror, which drags him into itself to presumable doom.

At the beginning of the second act, Snow White runs through the forest, haunted by the Demons and pursued by three young men of the village that she believes are out to kill her. Gustav intervenes, and she is made to understand that the villagers are seeking her because they are worried for her safety. There is a celebration when Snow White is found alive. Unwilling to return home, she settles down to rest accompanied by one of the village girls.

Guided by the mirror, Claudia finds Snow White and, disguised by her glamour, presents Snow White with a beautiful coat. When Snow White puts it on, the coat crushes the life out of her. (This is a variation on one of the classical ways the wicked stepmother tries to kill Snow White, a bodice tighten so that she cannot breathe.) The girl runs for help. Gustav and the villagers arrive, apparently too late, but Snow White is revived when the innocent child’s tears fall on her face. Claudia, watching in her raven form, suffers what should be a warning backlash when the spell is broken.

Undeterred, she calls on the Demons (Barry Molina, Marc Petrocci, Isaac Sharatt, Jose Soares) to conjure the evilly gleaming Poison Apple, and, again disguised, delivers it to Snow White along with other apples she hands out to the village girls. The girls again go for help when the poison takes effect, but this time to no avail. Snow White’s body is laid on a bier hung among the branches of the apple trees.

Gustav rushes to confront Claudia, who is preening before the mirror. They fight, but, even with the Demons assisting her, Gustave manages to fling Claudia into the mirror, which devours her as it had the hapless Wilhelm.

Claudia’s power now broken, Gustav returns to Snow White, and his kiss restores her to life. A romantic pas de deux, general celebration, and a shameless happy ending ensue.

Although Snow White gets the heroine’s last bow, the story really belongs to Claudia, and Susan Gartell was masterful in the role of the evil witch: vain, cruel, lustful and murderous, she acted and danced the role with great power, violent rage, and evil glee where appropriate. She was well supported by Luz San Miguel in the role of Snow White, who is a spunky girl but, ultimately just a girl and no match on her own for the wicked sorceress. David Hovhannisyan was also excellent as the young man who is essentially raped and humiliated by the older woman but finds his spine to go fight her when he knows that she’s also a murderous witch. The Demons of the Mirror are appropriately creepy in their faceless masks and inhuman poses.

The production was wonderfully designed and many effects very cleverly though simply done through staging and movement. The score by Philip Feeney was dramatic, powerful, listenable, and supported the emotion of the story and the dance. The Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra under the direction of Andrews Sill delivered the goods.

Michael Pink’s choreography is what makes the ballet, of course, and we continue to be impressed with his prowess as a creator of story ballets. His party and group dance scenes are always interesting, and he has great success in scenes of drama and suspense, such as Josef and Claudia’s wedding, the argument between Claudia and Snow White, and Claudia’s seductions of Gustav and Wilhelm.

We were very pleased with “Mirror Mirror,” and found it beautiful, exciting and thrilling.

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