Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes” Review – A Love Letter to the Dance

The Cast of Bourne's THE RED SHOES - Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group
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The Center Theatre Digital Stage streams a Bourne classic this week. Before the streamed production, Bourne himself recounts the pitfalls in converting the 1948 film of the same name into a dance spectacular – beginning with morphing classical ballet into the graceful but contemporary moves of his modern dance troupe. He takes a film which relied heavily on drama with snatches of dance and turns it into a wordless story told through music and motion. Meanwhile he finds himself researching new music for the tale – and finally settles on Golden Age romantic film scores created by Bernard Herrmann to embellish hits like “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “Citizen Kane.” But what of the multiple locations in the film? Lez Brotherston took on the task of set and costume design to make the colorful atmosphere of each place come alive. Writer and director Matthew Bourne’s production of THE RED SHOES premiered in 2016 at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. Between March 19 and March 21, 2021, American audiences can enjoy this moving classic.

Naïve Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw) lives to dance – and, in a series of fairy tale events – finds herself the prima ballerina in the famed ballet company of impresario Boris Lermontov (Adam Cooper). Set in London, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Villefranche-sur-Mer, THE RED SHOES sparkles with life. When Lermontov commissions composer Julian Craster to create a ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, he sets in motion this fateful story. Destiny deals Victoria a mixed blow when she meets composer Julian Craster (Dominic North), the love of her life. Soon, she will find herself torn between the two men – each who hold a part of her dream – on a battlefield where no one can win.

With lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Paul Groothuis, and projection from Duncan McLean, THE RED SHOES is a feast for both the eyes and the ears. The filmed version of Bourne’s THE RED SHOES is a New Adventures and Illuminations production captured live at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2019. Clever, witty, and achingly poignant, THE RED SHOES is the perfect marriage of story, song, and dance. Bourne again strikes just the right note.

THE RED SHOES premieres at 8 p.m. on Friday (3/19) and streams at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday (3/20), and at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday (3/21/21). All times are PST. Tickets are $10. For reservations, go online.

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