Those lovestruck Verona teen-agers, Romeo and Juliet, are looking better than ever -- surrounded by the most lavish collection of sets and costumes in the Joffrey Ballet's history. The road to this finery wasn't easy to negotiate. When an anticipated foundation grant didn't come through as expected, the Joffrey found itself stuck last year with an unfinished production and had to make do with borrowed settings and other materials.
A new corporate donation has now allowed the company to complete its own scenery and outfits, though, in time for its current 30th-anniversary season. I took a look at them during one of the ballet's first appearances at Lincoln Center, where it was greeted with a chorus of ``oohs'' and ``aahs'' from an obviously delighted audience.
Lush costumes and sets aren't the only virtue this dramatic production has to offer. The performance I attended was endowed with particularly expressive dancing by Glenn Edgerton and Dawn Caccamo in the title roles, and nearly all the secondary parts were strongly handled. John Cranko's choreography looked fresh and full of energy, as staged by ``Romeo and Juliet'' veteran Georgette Tsinguirides and lit by Jennifer Tipton; and the orchestra (a special nod to the winds) gave uncommon richness to the Prokofiev score under Allan Lewis's vigorous baton.
But the physical trappings of the show were the newsmakers of its New York State Theater run and are likely to attract an unusual share of attention over the many years this ``Romeo and Juliet'' will surely stay in the Joffrey repertoire. Designed by J"urgen Rose, they capture a persuasively Veronese atmosphere with surprising delicacy -- they may be lavish, but they aren't pushy or flashy -- while subtly enhancing the choreography that it's their job to support. Cheers for the folks who concocted this splendid display, and for the enterprising ballet company that has taken such a giant (and financially bold) step in sponsoring and presenting their efforts.
The next scheduled Joffrey performances will take place in California: May 2-18 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles; June 23-29 at the San Diego Civic Center; and July 1-12 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.