What’s not at the heart of this Romeo is its choreography. I don’t find it as “gaseous,” or as “pop,” as Croce did, but it lacks virtuosity and sweep and exaltation. (Then again, what Prokofiev Romeo doesn’t?) The balcony pas de deux loses steam and direction (Prokofiev doesn’t offer much help in this regard); the bedroom pas de deux is claustrophobic and clingy. It looked better when it went faster, and this past weekend, Jaime Diaz and Erica Cornejo looked best, Diaz a big, masculine presence with anger (when Tybalt slaps him) and elevation and double tours that he all but over-rotates, Cornejo giddy, immediate, quicksilver (applauded by the audience just for haring off stage), hopelessly devoted to her Romeo, and sweetly subversive in her minuet parody with Paris. Larissa Ponomarenko was contained, elegant, and, as always, deliciously articulated, but she’s more the serious Tatiana (from Onegin) type, and she needs more energy than Nelson Madrigal’s puppyish, boyish Romeo provided. The third couple in this production, Carlos Molina and Lorna Feijóo, struck a more tragic note, with Molina, tender but conflicted, suggesting Hamlet rather than Romeo.
Yury Yanowsky’s demonic, explosive Tybalt conjured Basil Rathbone in George Cukor’s 1936 film of Shakespeare’s play. Along with Cornejo, he’s the best thing here; I would like to have seen him as Romeo — and perhaps also Reyneris Reyes, whose wriggling Mercutio baited the Capulets in all their repressed sexuality. Joel Prouty’s Mercutio was just as antic and a little quicker. (Shakespeare’s Mercutio is nimble-tongued, as in his “Queen Mab” speech; too bad Cranko couldn’t give him footwork to match.) Mindaugas Bauzys was the most complex Paris, courtly and considerate and hinting at quirky; Sabi Varga seemed reined in and reluctant to show his natural sweetness. Karine Seneca created a grande dame Lady Capulet; Shannon Parsley’s lighter-weight model was a reasonable alternative. Sarah Wroth drew the Nurse more broadly than Heather Myers; Cranko doesn’t make fun of her but doesn’t give her much either. The opening-night trio of Gypsies — Melanie Atkins, Kathleen Breen Combes, and Rie Ichikawa — were the most individual.
For the Boston Ballet Orchestra, as so often, it’s the devil who’s in the details of thin high strings (at the start of the second act) and brass bobbles. but there’s divine intervention from music director Jonathan McPhee in the dark victory of Prokofiev’s score.