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Review: John Neumeier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a Triumph 

The high-spirited comedy returns to the Houston Ballet stage.

Houston Ballet Principals Beckanne Sisk as Titania and Chase O’Connell as Oberon; First Soloist Harper Watters as Puck, with Artists of Houston Ballet in John Neumeier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox)

The Houston Ballet launches its new season with a winning production of John Neumeier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  

A retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was first performed by the Houston Ballet in 2014. Neumeier, who worked with the company to mount both productions, reportedly had some updates for this run. 

As this is John Neumeier, you can expect exquisite choreography. More unexpected elements include extensive pairing of male dancers ( Chase O’Connell and Harper Watters) and men in pointe shoes (Samuel Rodriguez). (Dancers named here performed on opening night; they alternate roles with other company members.) 

In telling Shakespeare’s comedy, Neumeier employs wildly differing styles of movement and music, from classical to abstract to unrefined. The action moves between the Court of Athens and a fairy land. Each change of setting features a change in music, with the action in the Athens court set to classical music by Mendelssohn and the happenings in fairy land set to an abstract soundscape by Ligeti. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows three couples as they fall in and out of love. There are aristocrats Theseus (Chase O’Connell) and Hippolyta (Beckanne Sisk). O’Connell and Sisk double as Oberon and Titania in the fairy land. 

Commoners Helena (Melody Mennite) and Demetrius (Skylar Campbell), Hermia (Jacquelyn Long) and Lysander (Eric Best) are also in the mix. 

Theseus’ efficient and strict court assistant, Philostrate (Harper Watters) keeps all of the aristocrats in line. Watters doubles as the mischievous Puck, who complicates the lovers’ lives by carelessly dispensing a love spell when in fairy land. His errors result in several comedic mismatches. 

Also on hand are the Craftsmen, a ragtag team of inept wannabe actors. They’re preparing a Romeo & Juliet-like play for the wedding—a curious choice for the nuptials that leaves dead bodies scattered across the floor.

Principal dancers Chase O’Connell and Beckanne Sisk, who both joined the company last year, are riveting onstage. As Oberon and Titania, they earned several rounds of applause for the demanding lifts and moves during their various pas de deux. 

Watters, well-known to OutSmart readers, shows off his incredible range as he moves from the formal, restrained Philostrate to the impish, rascally Puck. The various pairings of Watters’ Puck with O’Connell’s Oberon are among the most impressive moments of the production. 

Made a first soloist in 2021, the charismatic and agile Watters could easily have stolen every scene he was in. Thankfully, Watters has proven himself a generous and supportive dancer, choosing to be complementary rather than competitive with his cast mates.

Houston audiences are eager to see him in ever larger and more complex roles. Hopefully, that will happen over the coming season. 

Samuel Rodriguez, a member of the Houston Ballet corps de ballet, shines as the Craftsman Flute. Drafted into performing the lead female character in the play, Flute clumsily dons a dress and pointe shoes and throws himself into the role. 

The troupe’s wonky performance of the play during the ballet’s second act is a highlight of the production. That’s due in large part to Rodriguez’s fine comedic timing and excellent acting skills. 

Overall, Houston Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a stellar accomplishment.

What: Houston Ballet presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
Where: Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue 
When: Through September 17; September 15 is the LGBTQ Out at the Ballet performance with a private pre-show reception.
Info: Enjoy discounted orchestra-level tickets by using the code OUTBALLET for the September 15 performance. Reserve your tickets here.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez

Olivia Flores Alvarez is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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