Streetcar doesn’t work as a ballet

Ballet buddy Barb and I went to see the National Ballet of Canada’s premiere of Streetcar Named Desire, with book club mate Helen.

Now, Barb and I are both English Lit grads (and Barb has her MA and wrote her thesis about Tennessee Williams), so we feel we are pretty well-positioned to judge a Tennessee Williams’ adaptation.

And I get that Neumeier’s ballet isn’t a strict adaptation of the play. That would be impossible. It’s his take on the themes and characters, translated to dance.

I just didn’t think it worked. The ballet is pretty much a glimpse into Blanche Dubois’ tortured mind. It’s flashbacks and feelings, very haunting and ethereal (esp. Act I). But that results in a narrative and plot that are both weak. And with the canned music (why no live orchestra? I now realize the live orchestra is about 49% of what I love about ballet), it was flimsy, fluttering and slow to progress. I felt many of the dance pieces dragged. (Although the raunchy sex scene between Stanley and Stella at the beginning of Act II was very hot. Mature content, indeed, the posters at the entrance door warned.)

Barb’s take is that the play is just too complex to translate into ballet. Maybe that’s it. Or, this particular ballet translated a brilliant play into a mediocre and diluted dance.

I don’t think popular opinion agrees with me, but I gotta call them as I see them.

Nevertheless, bravo to NBC for tackling it. And I was delighted to see that the Four Seasons was pretty much sold out for this performance.

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