Nashville Ballet presents:
A Streetcar Named Desire (Nov. 1-3; Ages 14+)
TPAC's Polk Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 | nashvilleballet.com
Remaining showtimes: Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $30 – $98
There's no doubt Tennessee Williams is looking down from the heavens with both a smile on his face and joy in his heart seeing the latest incarnation of his play, A Streetcar Named Desire, in striking dance form courtesy of Nashville Ballet. "WOW!" doesn't even begin to describe this exquisite Nashville Ballet production.
Admittedly, when I saw this title in Nashville Ballet's season lineup, I was intrigued to the max. "Streetcar as a ballet?" I wondered. "This should be interesting," I thought. I've been chomping at the bit for months waiting to see this show, and it does not disappoint. In fact, it's the most phenomenal production Nashville Ballet has ever done.
Interestingly, there have been a handful of Streetcar ballet productions (the first one was in 1952), and they've all been European ones showcasing Williams' tale set in the deep American South — there's something kind of funny about that when you think about it. Nashville Ballet's production was originally commissioned by the Scottish Ballet in 2012 with direction by Nancy Meckler and choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. This is the U.S. premiere of a ballet adaptation of Streetcar, and it will blow you away!
The staging of the production is magnificent across the board. The set incorporates multiple block structures that become surprisingly evident at the collapse of Blanche DuBois' family mansion, Belle Reve, before she makes her way to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley. All throughout the show, the blocks provide a simple stage design that is rich with a profound complexity at the same time. Scott Leathers' re-creation of Tim Mitchell's lighting design is superb. The lighting in this show magnifies the drama and accentuates the appropriate moodiness of the production.
Streetcar consists of several mature themes, including violent ones, and Nashville Ballet doesn't sugar-coat them, thank goodness. From the mesmerizing dance between Alan (Blanche's husband, portrayed by Michael Burfield) and Jeff (Alan's gay lover, portrayed by Luca Sportelli) to all of the dynamics that unfold with Blanche (Julia Eisen), Stella (Jamie Kopit) and Stanley (Jon Upleger), Nashville Ballet delivers a powerful performance that raises its own bar of excellence to a much higher level. This is an example of the performing arts at its absolute best. Bravo, Nashville Ballet!
There are so many jaw-dropping moments in this show to say the least; it's one of the most theatrical ballets I've ever seen. Both Eisen and Upleger treat the audience to the finest, most powerful moments in their careers, including the intense rape scene in Act II. It's jarring. It's breathtaking. It takes you into an emotional vortex from which you can't escape — that's the POWER of the performing arts done right!
The show's music by Peter Salem couldn't be better. It's captivating through and through, especially in Act I's mind-blowing scene within the bowling alley. The 13-piece band performs a spectacular array of jazzy swing sounds indicative of the 1940s. Those festive beats provide the perfect musical backdrop to the best of Ochoa's dazzling choreography, which every member of Nashville Ballet executes in high fashion. This particular scene by itself is more than worth the price of admission.
Nashville Ballet's production of A Streetcar Named Desire is cutting edge, and it's definitely outside the box (for Nashville at least), and that's a great thing! Nashville Ballet has indeed outdone itself with this stellar show and further deepens its roots into being a major player in helping to bolster Nashville's performing arts scene. I love how Nashville Ballet is fearlessly helping to lead the way to a broader mindset within our performing arts community as our city grows and grows and grows.
Nashville Ballet's age disclaimer for this show is adult audiences. Indeed, there are scenes depicting physical violence and sexual abuse (rape). However, there were some kids in the audience on opening night in the 10- 12-year-old age range. My recommendation is 14 and older, but if you take kids a couple of years younger than that, be prepared to have a conversation with them about the context of Williams' play — again, the rape scene in Act II is intense.
This production is definitely a superb parents' night out date, and I highly recommend you go experience. You'll be sorry if you miss this. Trust me.