The Houston Ballet closes its season with the Taming of the Shrew, a work by John Cranko based on Shakespeare's masterpiece of the same name (for those who got to skip this in middle-school English, it's the ballet version of 10 Things I Hate About You).
Katherina, danced last night by Melody Mennite, is the unruly daughter who rues every man she meets. Her lovely sister Bianca, played by Sara Webb, has many suitors, but their father won't let Bianca marry until Katherina does. You know the rest -- a handsome local drunk Petruchio, danced by Connor Walsh, is paid to woo Katherina, and they fall madly in love.
The scenery is sumptuous, the costumes lavish, and every man absolutely foppish. It's a highly entertaining show with lots of Mazurka-style dancing and challenging, interesting choreography. It's also more than a bit over the top. You're going to have to suspend your feminist disbelief for this one. Katherina is a lot of fun and pure evil at the beginning, kicking men and stomping on their toes. Then, she inexplicably falls madly in love with Petruchio, a total bastard. There's no Heath Ledger-esque buying of a guitar to make up for the fact he was bribed to take her to prom/marry her. Katherina just embraces domesticity and obedience, and they live happily ever after.
And as far as the dancing goes, the show too is all Petruchio's. Walsh nails his à la seconde turns again and again, usually while having to pretend he's drunk. Mennite's interpretation of Katherina is so good that you wish her wickedness lasted the whole show, happy ending be damned.
You can throw anything at the dancers of the Houston Ballet and they'll shine. Shrew once again proved they're more than just pretty bodies. They're also first-class actors.
June 9 through 19 at the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. 7:30 p.m. on June 9, 11, 17, 18. 2 p.m. on June 12, 18, 19. Tickets at www.houstonballet.org or by calling 713-227-2787. $18 and up.
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