MILWAUKEE, WI — Milwaukee Ballet is a company that whole-heartedly embraces the story ballet genre. Its latest narrative creation, Beauty and the Beast, will premiere tonight at the Marcus Center and run through April 15.
Like many previous productions, the ballet unites the work of Artistic Director Michael Pink and British composer Philip Feeney, who have collaborated together for over 30 years.
“I chose Beauty and the Beast because it’s been a few years since I created a work that an entire family could enjoy together,” says Pink. “It’s a wonderfully layered story, and I wanted to create an experience that would enchant children and entertain adults.“
Pink likewise wanted to provide performing opportunities for the students of Milwaukee Ballet’s school. “It’s a unique experience for them to rehearse and perform alongside a professional company,” he says. “And I’m a strong believer it enhances their training.”
Audiences can also expect the addition of classic fairy tale characters to the ballet, such as the Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Pinocchio, and the Pied Piper.
“I kept the idea of Belle as a bookworm at the center of my interpretation. She yearns for an adventure outside of her small town, and she escapes into her stories for that excitement,” he explains.
“I wanted to create a moment where the audience can see Belle interact with the characters from her favorite stories to show how real they are to her. I ultimately chose to have these characters come alive on her first night in Beast’s castle. I thought having them appear when Belle was scared and alone was a wonderful metaphor for the comfort books can provide.”
Feeney’s describes his musical storytelling as emphasizing the use of “leitmotif technique, whereby themes are attached to the two main characters.”
“The theme of the Prince/Beast, while constantly and vividly transformed — just as the character is — always signifies a reference to his character,” he says. “Belle’s theme is much more pervasive and refers not just to her but to what she represents: the sense of constancy and purity in a world of constant change, which will ultimately be the Prince’s means of salvation. So, the thematic material suffuses the whole score with hope.”
Feeney originally considered using Belle’s opening theme to tie up the conclusion of the ballet, but opted for a different approach.
“In a way, that would not have been honest because the story does not end as it started,” he says. “So, the work ends with a particular transmutation of Belle’s theme generally associated with the enchanted powers of the rose, transfigured against a magical canopy of sustained chords–the triumph of love and the return from the darkness, real and symbolic.”
Feeney’s score for Beauty and the Beast will be performed live by Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra.
Beauty and the Beast runs April 12-15 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee. Tickets start at $40 and are available online at milwaukeeballet.org, or by phone at 414-902-2103.
*Disclosure: Rachel Hellwig has been contracted in the past as a freelancer to create web content for Milwaukee Ballet.