Pair the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin with ballet and what do you have?
Believe it or not a show that has traveled to considerable acclaim from its home in Canada. As part of the Houston Ballet's The Cullen Series, Love Lies Bleeding is headed for the Wortham Theater.
Created by the company's artistic director Jean Grand-Maître and performed by 36 dancers from the Albert Ballet, it features 14 classic songs in a story that traces a lot of things from John's own life: his rise to stardom and the good and bad things that followed in his life.
Grand-Maître spoke to us recently while walking to work on what he called a warmer day (It was minus 6 instead of the minus 20 it had been the day before, from his headquarters in the Calgary-Edmonton area.)
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"When we started these portrait ballets we started with Joni Mitchell," Grand-Maître said. John had heard about the show and asked for a performance tape, which Grand-Maître sent him. Three months later Grand-Maître sent John an email asking if he'd be interested in doing something similar and to his surprise, John said yes.
They met in Las Vegas and when John began talking, it wasn't about his many successes, Grand-Maître said. "For Elton the first thing he said to me was he wanted us to use his life to educate people, so about homosexual repression, drug addiction, bulimia , alcoholism, he had it all. The death rate is very high in that business. Acting too and the business of celebrity. He didn't talk so much about his triumphs. He talked about his struggles and so you realize the struggles really make the music."
Grand-Maître studied John's entire catalog of songs before submitting his selections to John (who suggested and got two changes). Grand-Maître says he didn't want to do a biography ("It would take too long.") Instead, GM focused on the demands of celebrity and the burnout. "Because for Elton, for the first four years of his contract had to write four albums a year. And they all went platinum."
There are four performances of Love Lies Bleeding January 30 through February 1. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Wortham Theatre Center, 501 Texas. For information call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $100-$105.