Star-crossed lovers will sizzle on the Sunderland stage when Romeo and Juliet plays in the city next week.
To commemorate 400 years since the death of Shakespeare, Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) will be bringing the classic tale to life with an adaptation by Kenneth Macmillan.
It will be a particularly poignant performance for one dancer as he prepares to hang up his ballet slippers.
Soloist Steven Monteith is retiring from BRB after dancing with the company for 18 years next month.
In Sunderland he’ll be dancing the role of Paris in one of the shows that helped him rise through the ranks at BRB.
“It’s nice to be finishing on Romeo and Juliet as it’s one of the first things I did as a student,” he said.
Speaking about what audiences can expect from the show, he said: “As long as you have a rough idea in your head of the story, which everyone will have, it’s very easy to follow. As a narrative piece it’s one of the easiest.”
Separated by feuding families, Romeo and Juliet embark on a passionate, yet fatally doomed, love affair in a story that has captured the hearts of theatre-goers for hundreds of years.
The Bard’s tragic and passionate narrative comes to life in this production, which recreates the grandeur and heat of Verona with gargantuan pillars and Italian architectural style.
A cast of over 50 dancers execute Macmillan’s esteemed choreography, from the balcony scene’s romantic, ecstatic pas de deux to large-scale fight scenes and the lovers’ heart breaking end.
The spectacle is accompanied by Prokofiev’s instantly recognisable score, played live at every performance by the 60 musicians that make up the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
Steven says it’s a show that will see him departing the dance world on a high, after injury led to his decision to retire from the field aged 37.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. I snapped my Achilles tendon a couple of years ago and it’s never been the same,” he said.
“I started dancing when I was about five or six. I’d initially started with gymnastics, but they put me on the bars and I was petrified. My sister did ballet and I remember waiting for her and popping my head through the door, and I was hooked.”
Over the years he’s danced in many productions including Peter Wright’s productions of Coppélia, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.
And it’s a career that’s brought him to the Empire many times.
“I first started going to the Empire before it had the extension on. Back then it had a raked stage, so I remember it being difficult to dance on,” he said. “But they changed that with the extension. It’s a lovely theatre and very pretty to watch a show from, not that I get to watch shows very often. That’s something I’ll be able to do now.”
•Romeo and Juliet is at Sunderland Empire from March 17-19. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the ticket centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.
•We have a pair of tickets to give away for opening night. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: where is Romeo and Juliet set?
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk
Closing date: March 15
As part of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s visit to the city, there are a number of opportunities to go behind the scenes with the company including:
•Friday, March 18 (6.30pm) - ticket holders to the evening performance are invited to join a select panel of some of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s most influential creative forces as they discuss life as part of a world-renowned ballet company in a pre-show talk at 6.30pm (free to ticket holders but pre-booking essential).
•Saturday, March 19 (11.15am) – members of the public are invited behind closed doors as the company of dancers open up their daily class. This is a rare and fascinating opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes to witness the preparation and dedication needed to be part of the UK’s leading touring classical ballet company. Ticketed event £10pp and pre-booking essential.
•Saturday, March 19 (12.30pm) – ticket holders to matinee performance will have the opportunity to take part in unique family fun day which includes insight sessions and the chance to go behind the scenes with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
•To book Tel. 0844 871 3022