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Theater review: ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’ is as magical as ever

Nikolaus Wourms (left), who plays Nick Bottom, and Emily Reed, who plays Titania, perform in the Minnesota Ballet's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." (Bob King /

The announcement of the Minnesota Ballet’s revival of its 2011 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” engendered two immediate responses. The first was that it would be an opportunity to see Reinhard von Rabenau again in his most memorable role as the impish Puck.

The second was that the change in venue from UMD’s Mainstage to the ballet’s usual stomping ground at the DECC Symphony Hall would mean losing the charming intimacy that so many ballet patrons commented on last time.

Friday’s opening night performance confirmed that Robin Goodfellow is indeed von Rabenau’s most indelible role and that this show is absolutely magical wherever it is being staged.

The story comes from Shakespeare, and the music by Mendelssohn was primarily composed as incidental musical for a dramatic production of the play and not for a ballet. How Robert Gardner combines those two elements through his choreography into a complete ballet is quite impressive.

Structured similarly to “The Nutcracker,” the conflicts play out in Act I and then, after a triple wedding during intermission, it is basically time to dance in Act II. This ballet’s most unique element may well be that it offers four pairs of dancers.

That being said, after the war of love between Hippolyta (Catherine Wooten) and Theseus (Branden Reiners) in the prologue, there is very little dancing in the opening act between the couples that end up getting married. Oberon (Michael Agudelo) loves the non-responsive Titania (Emily Reed), but while he has his delightful dancing duel with Puck, she ends up with the donkey-headed Bottom (Nikolaus Wourms).

Oberon’s plot to use a magic flower to cast a love spell on Titania goes astray — courtesy of Puck, of course — so that Helena (Suzie Baer) is being pursued by Lysander (Kevin James), the beau of best bud Hermia (Alana Gergerich), instead of by Demetrius (Marco Clemente), the one that Helena really loves but who has spurned her and who now loves Hermia.

The evening’s highpoint comes in Scene II, when we meet the cast of characters, including the two cute little bugs (Katie Carlson and Julia Heytens) who follow Puck around. This is also when Ann Gumpper’s sumptuous backdrop with its gossamer moon is revealed, along with the gorgeous costumes worn by the Fairies, all lit to perfection by Kenneth Pogin and played out to Mendelssohn’s overture.

The night is replete with nice little touches, such as how Demetrius spins Helena several times into an embrace, which Lysander then does with Hermia off of a pirouette. Also, I think that audience would never tire of watching the rather unique way Puck has of running across that stage.

Lawrance Bernabo remembers when the Minnesota Ballet waited until the spring to end their season.