This has to be one of the most memorable theater-going experiences of my career:
“You expect wild sights when you go to something billed as a “fire ballet.” So it took a while, at Wednesday night’s opening of “Romeo and Juliet,” to realize that the torrential onstage downpour wasn’t just part of the spectacle.
One minute, a giant flaming chandelier draped with aerial dancers was rising toward the ceiling; next thing you knew, attendees of the Capulet ball were strutting through a Category 5 hurricane. The first few rows of audience members remained gamely seated, like SeaWorld visitors who couldn’t complain about being splashed by Shamu.
Only when one of the slippery-handed aerial dancers cried out, “Someone let us down!” did it dawn on many viewers that the emergency sprinklers had just been accidentally triggered.
The Oakland Fire Department rushed over to replace the broken sprinkler — and a large crowd cheerfully waited an hour and a half in a frigid warehouse for the show to go on. Both responses are a tribute to the reputation of Michael Sturtz, executive director of the Crucible.
In 1999, he founded the West Oakland workshop to offer community classes in the “fire arts”: welding, blacksmithing and less practical applications like flame throwing and fire swallowing. In 2004, he produced his first “fire opera,” “Dido and Aeneas”; he’s also since produced “The Seven Deadly Sins.” But “Romeo and Juliet” was his first foray into ballet. And it was worth the wetness, and the wait.”
There was real dancing, with Maurya Kerr of Lines Ballet as Juliet. Click here for my full review in today’s Chronicle.