With its new production of "Romeo and Juliet," the Joffrey Ballet has taken a quantum leap forward. It is now a company of Opera House caliber, able to sustain and shape one dramatic impulse over a long stretch and make the impact felt in every corner of the theater. This was apparent again last night at the Kennedy Center although the performance, the second of five scheduled "Romeos," didn't catch fire as at Wednesday's premiere.
Not only is "Romeo" good for the Joffrey, but the company is bringing out qualities in John Cranko's choreography that were less apparent when the Stuttgart Ballet presented it here in years past. There is much more dancing woven into the drama and pageantry than one remembers. The crowds in the street scenes, the guests at the Capulets' banquet, the ubiquitous swordsmen as well as the lovers dispatch a remarkable number of steps in pursuit of their fates. It's this that makes the new production so lively, for it gives the dancers the chance to show they didn't lose the Joffrey spunk when they acquired their new grandeur.
That the tragedy of Shakespeare's story and lyricism of Prokofiev's music were not consummated yesterday wasn't anyone's fault. Second nights are notoriously difficult to bring off. Dawn Caccamo, new as Juliet, proved to be a wonderfully spontaneous actress and mellow dancer. Everything she did seemed right, but perhaps it was too even. An unexpected still point, a calculated shift of gear once in a while might have served to etch in memory what had come before.
Glenn Edgerton, in his debut as Romeo, displayed legwork that matched the boldness of this ballet's swordplay. But, where was that questing and yearning, that intoxication that makes Romeo Romeo? Edgerton got under the hero's skin only in his fury at Tybalt. As Tybalt, Philip Jerry was more than the usual brute. With his lips set in a twisted grin, this was a sadistic sensualist, a connoisseur of cruelty, a Romeo gone wrong. It was the evening's most interesting performance, too much so, for it distorted the dramatic balance. Perhaps Edgerton and Jerry should switch roles.
The others in the cast were mostly the same as on Wednesday. Charlene Gehm was even stronger. With her majestic bearing and a few choice gestures, she made Lady Capulet seem a kin of Lady Macbeth. Tom Mossbrucker's Paris was a touch less golden boy, a touch more the pillar of society.