Dance review: Point Park students find Petrov's magic in 'Romeo and Juliet'

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Two generations converged this week at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland.

The cast of "Romeo and Juliet," presented by Point Park University's Conservatory Dance Company, was made up mostly of students -- the dancers, choreographers and artistic directors of tomorrow. The choreography they performed was by longtime Point Park dance professor Nicolas Petrov, who after 67 years in dance chose to close his career with the ballet that helped set it in motion.

Point Park University's 'Romeo and Juliet'
When: 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Rockwell Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse, Oakland.
Tickets: or 412-392-8000.

In the lobby, photos and reviews of the original production from 1971 hung on the walls. Mr. Petrov's adaptation of the classic William Shakespeare tale of rivalry and young love attracted national media attention back then for being the first American production set to the Sergei Prokofiev score. It was premiered by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, which Mr. Petrov had founded just two years earlier.

"Mr. Petrov's own choreography for the work was pleasant, unaffected and unexceptional," critic Clive Barnes wrote in his review of the original production for The New York Times in October 1971. "It was carefully crafted to the abilities of the young company, and while never reaching any level of inspiration, it never fell beneath a perfectly satisfying adequacy proper to the circumstances."

These passages are relevant to this latest revival. While the choreography was pretty and perhaps predictable at times, it didn't disappoint -- and neither did the dancers -- and it was an appropriate challenge for the aspiring artists.

On Wednesday night, Veronica Goldberg's Juliet was poised and polished in persona and technique. Her presence captured the youthful vibrancy of the teenage character, and her chemistry with Nick Fearon (Romeo) was palpable without feeling forced. Mr. Fearon conveyed a Romeo well balanced in strength and passion, and the pair's partnering work and lifts were executed smoothly and effortlessly.

Another standout was Will Geoghegan's Mercutio, who peppered the performance with wit. He demonstrated his depth as an actor, though, in the final staggering steps after his character's life-ending duel. Technically, pirouettes early on called for more control, but he later earned applause for a series of strong second turns in the party scene.

Ensemble scenes were visual treats, rich with colorful costumes, swift sword fights and pantomiming that offered the eye several points of interest and brought the narrative to life. Lighting design by Josh Monroe effectively intensified more serious moments with severe shadows that heightened the drama.

Like the young Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre did decades ago, Point Park Conservatory dancers lived up to the ambitious task of helping modern audiences find interest and relevance in this canonical story of love worth fighting for. It was a proper tribute to the man who helped put Pittsburgh's ballet scene on the map.

Sara Bauknecht: or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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