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BRB ALADDIN SPRING 2013


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Birmingham Royal Ballet's new production of Aladdin had its premiere in Birmingham on Friday evening.  Please use this thread to give us your thoughts on the performances throughout the Spring.

 

To start things off, here is an early review:

 

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/ballet-review-aladdin-birmingham-royal-1325180

 

 

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We saw it on Saturday afternoon and it was wonderful, new, vibrant and fun. The jewels were fantastic, it sent shivers down the spine! Elisha Willis danced a magical Princess (my girls both whispered 'it's Jasmine!' when she came on!) 

Just a perfect ballet really!

Happy days :-)

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BRB's Aladdin does exactly what it says on the tin - it is a fantastic family entertainment! But there is more to it than that because there is lots of dance and we saw some fabulous performances over the opening weekend.

 

The story is as I knew it from seeing the pantomime over the years so, although a detailed synopsis is provided in the programme I didn't find it necessary to read it to follow the story. The sets are utterly fabulous with a real North African/Middle Eastern feel (I just love the bath house!) and the costumes are Silk Road chic. There's a super Lion Dance to celebrate the wedding and a gorgeous Dragon Dance in the finale.

 

The first act takes place in the Market/Soukh where Aladdin and his 2 friends are being typical Jack the Lads. David Bintley pays homage to Romeo and Juliet in this scene. When Aladdin is saved from the guards by the Maghrib he is persuaded to go to the magical cave to find the lamp. The set for the cave is utterly fabulous with gleaming stalagmites and stalactites that change colour as more and more jewels appear. The jewels are in the form of dances and give a great opportunity to show off the company dancing. The rubies duet brought the house down and the diamonds gave the ladies of the corps a glittering finale to the jewel dances.

 

At the start of the second act, Aladdin returns in a puff of smoke to his mother's house and introduces her to the Magic Lamp and the Djinn. He dashes off to the Market Place and sees and instantly falls in love with the Princess. He follows her to the Bath House and is caught and sentenced to death. His mother is able to smuggle the Magic Lamp to him and he summons the Djinn who brings in hoards of jewels as Aladdin reappears richly dressed. The Emperor blesses the marriage of Aladdin and the Princess.

 

In Act 3, Aladdin is lured away and the Mahgrib kidnaps the Princess. Aladdin goes in search of her, rescues her with the help of a flying carpet and frees the Djinn from his bondage. And they all live happily ever after!

 

First night honours went to Cesar Morales, Nao Sakuma, Tzu-Chao Chou and Iain Mackay. Cesar has just the right amount of cheeky chappy persona and is achingly romantic in his duets with the Princess. Nao is just exquisite. Tzu-Chao is one of the most fleet of foot dancers I can remember seeing and his steps as the Djinn are a blur. Iain absolutely relished the role of the Mahgrib and provided a brooding presence throughout. The whole cast was magnificent.

 

On Saturday afternoon we saw Joe Caley, Elisha Willis, James Barton and Rory Mackay. They were so different from the previous cast but equally fun. Joe has such an outward facing energy! James really commanded the stage as the Djinn.

 

On Saturday evening we saw Chi Cao, Natasha Oughtred, Mathias Dingman and Tyrone Singleton. Chi was utterly magnificent in the role giving an intelligent characterisation that really brought Aladdin to life. One thing I really liked was the way he grew in stature from a scamp to a Prince as the Mahgrib kitted him out in gorgeous clothes to persuade him to go to the cave. His dancing was scintillating. Natasha was a sweet and gentle Princess and Tyrone Singleton was very menacing as the Mahgrib. Mathias Dingman again showed off his virtuoso dancing skills.

 

Aladdin is light and light hearted and a fantastic entertainment for the whole family.

Edited by Janet McNulty
Correcting spelling mistakes
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I was fortunate to be able to get a last minute ticket for last night's (23/02) performance with Japanese guests Yudai Fukuoka as Aladdin and Ayako Ono as The Princess.

 

Over a week into the run the Company (already on sparkling form last weekend) have really tightened up and we had a truly dazzling performance.  In the cave scene Brandon Lawrence, Callie Roberts and Delia Mathews as Emeralds and Tryone Singleton and Ambra Vallo as Rubies were spectacular.  I just love the cave scene with the ever-changing stalactites and stalagmites, the mammoth bone staircase and the gorgeous dancing for the jewels.

 

Tzu-Chao Chou has somehow managed to speed himself up even more as the Djinn - he really is a blur of movement and dances so beautifully as well.  Iain Mackay performs the Mahgrib with deliciously evil relish...  And boy did he milk those boos at the curtain call too.

 

Yudai Fukuoka was vivid, energetic and graceful as Aladdin - a splendid performance!  Ayako Ono was delicate, sweet and gentle as the Princess.  Their duets were absolutely delicious.  I am so glad that I have seen them performing with BRB.  In honesty I prefer to see the home team but I must say that I loved the performance last night and hope these 2 dancers get the opportunity to guest with BRB again!

 

If you are going to see Aladdin (and you should) please don't expect a deep psychological take on the story but do expect a fabulous family-orientated entertainment with lots of great dancing!

Edited by Janet McNulty
Edited to change date to 23/02 - thanks Alison!
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I was fortunate to be able to get a last minute ticket for last night's (23/03) performance with Japanese guests Yudai Fukuoka as Aladdin and Ayako Ono as The Princess.

 

Along with a time machine? :)

 

Thanks for the report, Janet.

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I too managed to get last minutes tickets for this but for the Saturday matinee performance (23/2).  Jamie Bond made a great Aladdin and Jenna Roberts a very graceful Princess.  My favourite performer was James Barton as the Djinn of the Lamp and in the specatacular cave scene I loved the duets by the rubies danced by Elisha Willis and Iain Mackay.  All in all it was a brilliant 'show' and I am very pleased I was able to see it in a theatre where I could only spot two empty seats from my vantage point at the very back of the circle!!!  My DD was doing the BRB Insight days and on the Sunday learned the diamond dance and the onyx and pearls dance from in the cave scene.  One of the teachers for the day was Brandon Lawrence so I also got to see a little of him dancing along as the Djinn, albeit not in costume or on a stage but I enjoyed it none the less and my DD loved the whole experience.

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I would just like to eat a big humble pie for anyone who saw my earlier posts about being disappointed that I was seeing the Japanese guest artists, rather than the BRB principals, in the main roles. They were both superb and I am very glad indeed that I got to see them. The performance was very sparkly, very entertaining and very enjoyable. One of the best things was the range of roles on offer which meant that you got to see a large number of the company dancers, dancing throughout the ballet.

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Well I saw my final 2 performances of Aladdin for the week yesterday.  Momoko Hirata made her debut with Cesar Morales in the afternoon.  If I said she was exquisitely sublime, it is probably the understatement of the year!  They were truly fabulous together.  Cesar's interpretation of Aladdin is really quite gentle and he has a lovely comedic touch.  He is superlative with both Nao and now Momoko.

 

Also at yesterday's  afternoon performance Jonathan Caguioa was superb in Emeralds with Yijing Jhang and Yvette Knight and Nao Sakuma and Tom Rogers were sensational in Rubies.

 

In the evening we were treated to the delicate Princess of Jenna Roberts and the seriously cheeky chappy Aladdin of Jamie Bond whose energy and passion filled the auditorium.

 

The whole company is on sparkling form and they really look as though they are having a ball.

 

Do go and see this fabulous family entertainment if you get the chance.

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I saw the Lowry opening night with Chi Cao and Natasha Oughtred who were wonderful as Aladdin and his Princess.  The whole production was superb from beginning to end, beautifully danced to wonderful music.  The BRB dancers were on excellent form (as always) and very together.  Marion Tait was Aladdin's mother and her comic portrayal of the role was a joy.  I loved the Lion Dance and the Chinese Dragon and Tzu-Chao Chou was wonderful as the Djinn he is so fast!  I must give huge praise for the sets and costumes which were stellar - the cave scene in Act1 was not only sprinkled with bejewelled Principals but had a huge number of scenes involving many dancers and as for the Diamonds lead by Celine Gittins fab-u-lous!  A great night out and I'd go to see Aladdin again in a heart beat - if you have not got a ticket yet go beat down the doors of the Coli!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I saw my final 3 performances of the current tour this weekend in Sunderland.

 

I've enjoyed the production more and more as the run went on - it really is great fun!

 

In Sunderland I saw a radiant Elisha Willis with Joe Caley on top form, a sublime Jenna Roberts with Jamie Bond at his vivacious best and one cast new to me.  On Friday evening I finally got to see Mathias Dingman with Maureya Leibowitz and I thought they were absolutely fabulous.  Mathias had captured the jack-the-laddishness of Aladdin perfectly and was equally romantic in his duets with the princess.  I loved the moment when he first looked up and saw her in the market place.  Maureya was shy and entranced by what she saw in the market place but was much more outgoing in her own palace home.  She brought real light and shade to the character of the Princess.  Tyrone Singleton has cornered the market in malevolence as the Mahgrib - he has an enormous presence and is very sinister.

 

There is so much to watch and enjoy in this production.  I do hope any Balletco-ers who see this at the Coliseum this week report back!

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Quote from the review at post #18:

 

But while they were cheered to the rafters at the end, there was a warning from BRB chairman Professor Michael Clarke that, unless the North- East ballet-loving public turned out in greater numbers, there could be a question mark about the long-term viability of BRB’s long-standing tradition of twice-yearly visits to the region.

 

This is really worrying and such a challenge for all companies which tour. Most of the theatres visited by ENB this year were far from full. And we are talking Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty here .......

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Maybe Janet can tell us more about the situation in Sunderland?  I remember that the seats used to be *really* heavily subsidised, and wonder if that's still the case, or whether prices are higher now and people are less prepared to go?

 

It's not only ballet companies who are suffering: I've been to several concerts in London recently which, a couple of years ago, would have been more or less sell-outs, and yet there are noticeable areas of unsold seats.

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The tickets are getting slightly more expensive.  When booking for October, the top price is £26.50.  Quite a few years ago now, the company was struggling with audiences and started to experiment with charging £10 per ticket.  This was very successful and when I started going in 2002, the tickets had gone up to £15, which was still very successful.  The prices have gradually gone up over the last couple of years but it is still by far and away the cheapest venue to see BRB.  (Without a subscription ticket the top price in Birmingham was £46 this year).

 

For the 3 performances I attended last week the stalls were certainly well attended and, judging by the audience reaction, the upper levels were too.  Aladdin was, however, by no means sold out.  There again, it wasn't sold out at Birmingham or The Lowry either.  I suspect the test will really come in the Autumn when that guaranteed bums-on-seats-er Sleeping Beauty is on.

 

I think it is very much a case of what is coming on that determines the audience numbers.  As an example, when ENB last brought Giselle to Liverpool (and Manchester earlier in the run) it did not sell.  However Strictly Gershwin and Sleeping Beauty in subsequent years both sold very heavily.

 

In these days of straitened circumstances I expect people are less willing to take a chance on something if they might not like it.

 

It has surprised me that Aladdin has not been a huge success in terms of advance ticket sales.  It may not be the "deepest" of ballets but as I keep saying it is a spectacular family entertainment.  Hopefully in future runs, people will remember the positive vibes from this tour and clamour for tickets!

 

I must say that BRB has a loyal and very warm audience in Sunderland; perhaps just not enough to sell out the theatre night after night.

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I agree with Janet that the Sunderland audience is very warm. It always has been ( I first started going there nearly 40 years ago). People forget that the Empire has a very big auditorium, so big that it was one of the very few theatres that the Bolshoi visited in 1956, so it is hard to fill.

The performances last week were pretty full, the dress circle totally sold out at the 3 performances I went to. Compare that to the bookings for this week's Coli season, with multiple ticket offers necessary. There are also problems with the theatre. In the past, we could book for the next season when at a BRB performance, thus saving the premium phone numbers and large transaction fees required by ATG since they took over the theatre from the council. But the last two times, booking didn't open until a week after the BRB season, and this time booking was advertised as opening in April, although it turned out it had opened, but most people wouldn't have known.

It's disappointing that the company once again is threatening to pull out or reduce performances in Sunderland as the North East gets very little classical ballet, unlike the North West or Yorkshire. One problem is that people from Newcastle are reluctant to go to nearby Sunderland for anything. What is necessary is more targetted marketing; but marketing and PR are not so pro-active as with some other companies eg there was very little national media coverage of Aladdin, even though it's a major new production. Other companies would have made more of a splash.

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Ah, premium phone numbers: one thing always guaranteed to put me off phoning a venue (along with disproportionate booking fees: I wanted to buy an £8 balcony ticket at the Coliseum a while back.  They aren't available online, so you have to pay a whacking £3.something fee to book them by phone.  I decided not to).

 

Incidentally, though, it's worth mentioning the ATG card.  If you are a holder, you pay no booking fees, and some of the discounts are good enough to pretty much cover the cost - I got a half-price seat for the first night of Sleeping Beauty in Oxford recently, which covered the cost of the coach fare to get there.

 

Janet, thanks for the update on Sunderland prices.  I didn't expect the £10 tickets still to be in operation, but it still sounds like a bargain (but still, a family of 4 might be over £100, unless there are child discounts).  I do think there is a bit of a psychological block for a lot of people in terms of going to a different town or city from their usual one, even when the two locations are relatively close together, such as Manchester and Liverpool. 

 

I think part of the reason why sales have been struggling so much is that the sales literature has taken so long to come out: not just for Aladdin in general, but for most of the performances at the Coliseum, certainly.  I'm not sure whether they were waiting for actual production photographs or something for Aladdin.

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We've just done our bit to help by booking a multiple grandchildren outing for Sunday - but it's only been feasible for a group of 9 thanks to the Family of Four discounts and a number of unused London Theatre Tokens.  But I've little doubt that they'll all enjoy it!

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Alison said:

"Ah, premium phone numbers: one thing always guaranteed to put me off phoning a venue (along with disproportionate booking fees: I wanted to buy an £8 balcony ticket at the Coliseum a while back.  They aren't available online, so you have to pay a whacking £3.something fee to book them by phone.  I decided not to).

 

 

Incidentally, though, it's worth mentioning the ATG card.  If you are a holder, you pay no booking fees, and some of the discounts are good enough to pretty much cover the cost - I got a half-price seat for the first night of Sleeping Beauty in Oxford recently, which covered the cost of the coach fare to get there.

 

Janet, thanks for the update on Sunderland prices.  I didn't expect the £10 tickets still to be in operation, but it still sounds like a bargain (but still, a family of 4 might be over £100, unless there are child discounts).  I do think there is a bit of a psychological block for a lot of people in terms of going to a different town or city from their usual one, even when the two locations are relatively close together, such as Manchester and Liverpool. "

 

Janet said:

I recently got an ATG card for the first time and so far it has paid for itself twice over for tickets I have booked personally for me, and I've booked for 3 other friends to see NB in Manchester in November.  For Sunderland in the Autumn, 3 tickets have cost me a grand total of £56.25 (first night half price and £5 off the other 2 tickets).  In Sunderland Friends of BRB can also get the same discount.  I did ask if I could have the 1st night ticket free being both an ATG card holder and a Friend of BRB.  I'm afraid the answer was "Nice try!".  At the Coli, Friends of BRB can get a 20% discount.

 

I know what you mean about inter-city rivalry.  I always feel a bit strange going to the theatre in Manchester (but I still go!).  Not so with the Lowry which is in Salford!

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Now you mention it, it's ironic.  One of the reasons I dropped being an ENB Associate was because we stopped getting ticket discounts, but now you mention it ENB Friends had the same first-night offer in Oxford.

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Just back from seeing Aladdin at the Coliseum in London. Mathias Dingman as Aladdin, Tyrone Singleton as the Mahgrib, James Barton as the Djinn of the Lamp, Maureya Lebowitz as the Princess. Good dancing, superb sets and costumes - a thoroughly enjoyable production, very well received.

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Was shocked by numbers at coliseum yesterday eve... So poorly attended my balcony seats were upgraded to dress circle! Lovely dancing and the sets were superb. I felt the score was a bit repetitive. First time I have seen BRB dance. Standouts for me were the genie and Beandon Lawrence .

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Kiwimum, that's both surprising and disappointing. I wonder whether the ballet will do better at the weekend matinees. Perhaps it sounds too much like pantomime for traditional (adult) ballet-goers. It's also competing with the RB's Alice. There is a vast amount of ballet on in London this year with so many visiting companies coming, and ballet-goers may be saving their money for the Mikhailovsky and NBoC who are both coming to London in the next few weeks. Aladdin has not been well advertised by the Coliseum. I've said it before on another thread that, IMO, it does not serve visiting companies well.

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