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The Merry Widow

Adam Bull and Olivia Bell. Photography Jeff Busby

“This sumptuous souffle of a ballet is possibly one of the best The Australian Ballet has produced."

4.5 Stars
“[Sir Robert] Helpmann's genius can be seen in the scintillating scenario and entertaining theatrics, which make this opulent tale a well-cut ballet classic."
“Desmond heeley's stunning designs fizz with colourful Belle Epoque glamour, John Lanchbery's creative arrangement of Franz Lehar's music sparkles, while Ronald Hynd's choreography is swept along by swoony waltzes and dizzying ballroom scenes."
"The lavish sets and costumes complement fine acting and great stage direction, enabling the characters to deliver a complex storyline with humour and clarity."
"It's a heightened, romanticised world, but one which we all recognise, and perhaps even long for."
"As Valencienne and Camille, Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian are passionately sweet in their extra-marital flirtations, and Colin Peasley and Paul de Masson are charmingly hilarious in their comic roles."
"Kirsty Martin and Robert Curran are romance itself in the lead roles of Hanna (the widow) and Danilo, twirling and embracing as though dancing on air."
"[Kirsty] Martin's exuberant performance is bittersweet: this season is her last with the company before she retires."
The Age, 27 June 2011

“Happily, the widow dances on”
“The Australian Ballet’s 1975 adaptation of The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar remains one of ballet’s most successful musical theatre transformations”.
“Equally astute was his recruitment of an experienced artistic team, every aspect of this production perfectly integrated and expertly finished”.
“For this revival season, Desmond Heeley’s glorious, belle époque costumes have been restored and refurbished. His art nouveau sets are as vibrant as ever, ingeniously dividing the stage and providing luxurious detailing”
“The waltzes are particularly impressive, lift sequences flawless and formations tidy.”
"Without exception, the opening night cast achieved character-based rather than generic mime, while expressive detail and pacing were close to perfect."
"Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian, as the coquettish Valencienne and her charming French lover Camille, blend mischievous frivolity and open passion, each pas de deux sparkling with energy and impulsiveness."
"As the flustered, aged Baron, company stalwart Colin Peasley is delightfully outrageous while Paul DeMasson's Njegus is immensely likeable, his comic timing and mannerisms perfectly suited to the role."
Robert Curran (Danilo) and Kirsty Martin (Hanna) provide a tender yet smouldering, gently playful account of the central romance: drawing out moments of frisson, tension and abandon to create a tempestuous, sweeping narrative of yearning and desire."
"Always exciting to watch, [Robert] Curran's expression rides upon strong technique, his lifts and turns spontaneous and his dramatic pacing exemplary."
"In her farewell role with the company, a poised [Kirsty] Martin is at her majestic and graceful best, enlivening the work's dreamy blend of nostalgia and optimism."
The Australian, 27 June 2011

5 stars
“Ageless Widow”
"The Merry Widow may be 36, but it appears to be brand new, sparkling in its unashamed extravagance. Costumes frothing in prettiness, sets that capture European splendour and music that conveys the happiest of times explain why this ballet continues to be one of the most popular in The Australian Ballet's repertoire."
"It is a visual delight from start to finish and the audience can only audibly gasp in wonder at the attention to detail in Desmond Heeley's design."
"This is just what Melbourne ballet audiences want."
"As Kirsty Martin prepares to give her final bow with the company, she reminds us of the integrity and artistry she has brought to her roles over the years. Her merry widow Hanna is layered with emotion."
"As always, [Kirsty] Martin is utterly dignified, light and graceful, especially alongside the secure partnering of Robert Curran. This stage partnership has been built on trust over many years and they make a charming couple."
"[Robert] Curran makes a dashing count, exploring his range of theatrical gestures and dancing with an aristocratic refinement in keeping with the role."
“Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian are similarly attuned as parallel lovers Valencienne and Camille. [Madeleine] Eastoe is breathtaking in her attack, charming in her sensitivity. [Andrew] Killian is growing in artistic stature and his confidence on stage is thoroughly entertaining."
"Special mention must go to Chengwu Guo as the Cossack with outstanding line and elevation."
"Orchestra Victoria brings all the bright rhythmic possibilities in Franz Lehar's score to light in what can only be described as a perfect night at the ballet, tinged with a sad yet grateful and fond farewell to one of our greatest dancers, Kirsty Martin."
Sunday Herald Sun, 26 June 2011

4 stars
“The company revelled in the exaggerated theatrics”
“Madeleine Eastoe zestfully channelled her flirtatious side, while Andrew Killian convincingly played her smitten lover”
“[Kirsty] Martin, as Hanna, the merry widow herself, was all cool elegance with appropriate pathos (and drop-dead gorgeous outfits).”
“Waltzes, cancans, romantic duets, even a flashback sequence: The Merry Widow packs it all in with tongue-in-cheek punch.”
Herald Sun, 28 June 2011

"With lavish sets and gorgeous costumes, The Merry Widow is a great, frothy indulgence of a ballet – a perfect evening’s entertainment.”
“The retiring Kirsty Martin makes an elegant, stately widow and Robert Curran is, as always, a magnetic presence and consummate partner.
“Andrew Killian is charismatic and assured as Camille de Rosillon”
“His partner, Madeleine Eastoe, steals the show as Valencienne. With her superb technique and natural exuberance, Eastoe is a dancer at the peak of her talent.”
“If you like a story ballet full of humour and excellent dancing, this one’s for you.”
The Sunday Age, 3 July 2011

“This production cannot help but please”
“From the opening moments of silliness to the lavish ensemble pieces to the gentle, lilting pas de deux, the opulent sets and swirling score, this ballet has something for everyone. This is clearly the stuff of romance and the intrigues that bring the pairs of lovers to their rightful partners are played out with charm and verve.”
“Kirsty Martin as the widow Hanna brought interpretive maturity and ease to the role. She conveyed the dignity and elegance of the character with subtlety.”
“[Robert] Curran showed his assured technique and comic ability in this role”
“Madeleine Eastoe as Valencienne was a delight and displayed her dynamic range from light flirtatiousness to romantic intensity. Her partner, Andrew Killian as Camille, was dashing and believable.”
“Interpretively and technically, the cast rewarded with joyful, generous performances and appeared to be having immense fun.”
“The corps de ballet was sharp and charming.”
“Chengwu Guo delighted with his spectacular leaps early in the second act”
“Grande fouettes were applauded and ensemble waltzes embraced for their precision.”
“This frothy and warm production was a reciprocated love affair between dancers and audience.”
“A great winter indulgence for Melbourne ballet lovers”.
Dance Australia,  August/September 2011

“As they manage to do in every ballet they perform in, Daniel Gaudiello as Camille and his real-life wife, Lana Jones, as Valencienne, managed to completely steal the show. In many ways, these two newly promoted principal artists represent the new guard of the company. In sparkly, character-driven roles, [Lana] Jones is simply unbeatable. [Daniel] Gaudiello, a dancer with both razor-sharp jumps and a kind of boyish charm, is a rising star, and is poised to take a greater share of leading roles in the next few years.”
The Merry Widow is a kind of frothy, frilled, gorgeous ballet, with its complex sequences of quick footwork to the character dancers and the lovely romantic pas de deux, in which the artists of The Australian Ballet really excel.”
“Colin Peasley dove wholeheartedly into the role of Baron Mirko Zeta. He seemed to relish dancing the role of the cuckholded husband, taking full advantage of the possibilities it has to offer.”
“All in all, The Merry Widow was the highlight of 2011 so far.”
Dance International, September 2011

The Australian Ballet has executed the unashamedly feel-good love story with so much class you can't help but get swept up in the sheer romance of it all.”
"Principal dancer Rachel Rawlins captured the vulnerability of wealthy widow Hanna beautifully, proving a perfect partner to the playful Robert Curran, who pulled off the challenging role of Count Danilo with aplomb. Their final pas de deux was so electrifying it caused pulses to quicken and breaths to shorten."
“Madeleine Eastoe never fails to light up the stage and her flirty, floozy portrayal of lovestruck Valencienne had the audience in hysterics, as did Colin Peasley's on-stage scheming as Baron Mirko Zeta."
“All of the performances were flawless but mention must be made to soloist Chengwu Guo, whose gravity-defying solo in Act II had the audience hollering for more.”
“A riotous romp that's frothier than a bottle of bubbly after a turbulent flight.”
The Daily Telegraph, 14 November 2011

Four stars
“With John Lanchbery's imaginative arrangement of [Franz] Lehar's effervescent music, Desmond Heeley's lavish sets and costumes, and [Ronald] Hynd's choreography full of glorious waltzes, ensembles and lovely pas de deux, The Merry Widow sends the spirits soaring.”
“The opening-night cast performed with just the right lightness of touch, their acting as assured as their dancing.”
“Rachel Rawlins brought sophisticated poise to the role of the wealthy widow”
“Primo male principal Robert Curran, who will retire at the end of the season, simply charmed as Danilo, moving from reeling drunk to romantic hero. Ever the perfect partner, his pas de deux with [Rachel] Rawlins were swooningly romantic.”
“Madeleine Eastoe shone as the flirtatious Valencienne and was superbly well matched by a charismatic Andrew Killian as her lover, Camille.”
“In the comic role of the ageing Baron, who is married to Valencienne, Colin Peasley was very funny, as was Matthew Donnelly who played his secretary.”
The Sunday Telegraph, 13 November 2011

“Rachel Rawlins danced the title role with a beauty of line and graceful phrasing. She also has the ability to convey subtle changes of feeling, carrying the audience's sympathies with her on the full gamut from deep sadness to great joy.”
“Revelling in the strength, empathy and elegant technique of a long career at its best, Robert Curran offered his customary partnering skill and generosity as Danilo, as well as excelling in some virtuosic opportunities. On the same day, he announced his dancing retirement: the company and its audiences will miss him, but it is a thrill to farewell him at such a level of excellence.”
“Madeleine Eastoe's Valencienne, the flirtatious wife of the much older Baron, is delightful.”
"The ensembles are particularly memorable in each act, offering a different character that the corps de ballet seizes on with relish"
“In each of the ensembles, there is a constant, imaginative ebb and flow of action that is rare to see in classical choreography created today. It animates the stage and delights the eye – but only when done as well as this.”
“Supporting cameo roles like Colin Peasley's Baron- an affectionate portrait of a buffoon with heart - and Matthew Donnelly's Njegus are well drawn.”
Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November 2011

“The Australian Ballet’s production of The Merry Widow is, in a word, stunning. From beginning to end, the dances (and dancers) are mesmerising.”
“When the choreography looks completely effortless, you know you are in the presence of some of the best classical dancers in the world.”
“This is a production that could have gone a lot longer than the 134 minute duration and the audience would have remained entranced.”
“Both dancers (Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian) have great chemistry and as individuals, tremendous technique and character.”
“Apart from these principal dancers, the senior artists and soloists produce some great performances, particularly at the Pontevedrian soiree and at Chez Maxime. The soiree gives the dancers an opportunity to showcase their versatility, moving from classical ballet technique to the character dance style.”
“The most wonderful thing about this production is that it speaks a universal language. As David McAllister pointedly remarks, this ‘no singing, all dancing’ production appeals to all ages and all nationalities.”
Australian Stage Online, 11 November 2011

“As Valencienne and Camille, Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian are bright, lively and very believably in love.”
“Rachel Rawlins is elegant as young widow Hanna and dances beautifully with Robert Curran as Count Danilo, a role he performs here for the last time before his retirement.”
“Company veteran Colin Peasley is very funny as the ageing baron.”
“Chengwu Guo stands out with his impressive leaps and turns.”
The Sun-Herald, 20 Nov 2011

“Ah, wonder of wonders! Bliss. Sublimity. The Australian Ballet’s revival of its 1975 production of The Merry Widow loses nothing at all to the sands of time.”
“It would be literally impossible, to say nothing of utterly inequitable, to single out one or another principal dancer as shining more brightly, as all are technically and, more importantly, aesthetically superb.”
“Quite simply, this is a flawless ballet, resplendent in every detail”
Crikey’s “Curtain Call”, 17 Nov 2011

“Lana Jones sparkles as flirtatious Valencienne and Amber Scott is flawless as merry widow Hanna”
Sydney City News, 20 Nov 2011

“Given the care and attention that has obviously been lavished on this revival, and the obvious pleasure and precision with which the company dance this masterpiece, one would expect that this production will be around to continue to delight audiences for many years to come.”
As the widow Hanna Glawari, Rachel Rawlins is simply ravishing. Heart-breakingly beautiful in her costumes, refined and graceful in her dancing, confident and mature in her acting, she carried off her two beautifully staged entrances magnificently, and brought warmth and humour to her interaction with the other characters.”
On Robert Curran: “It was a performance to treasure.”
“Madeleine Eastoe was in sparkling form”
Canberra Critics Circle, 28 Nov 2011

“The whole company outdid themselves on this occasion. They made real theatrical magic with music and décors taking part to create a very real world completely immersing the audience.”
The Berkshire Review, 23 Nov 2011



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