The power, beauty, and utter ubiquity of the Beatles’ music has already been widely documented. And with new interpretations of the Fab Four’s classic material still making regular appearances in popular culture, there should be nothing surprising about a ballet inspired by the music of the world’s favorite rock band.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- HERE COMES THE SUN : Jude (Michael Scribner) and Prudence (Blythe Berg) fall in love as the sun, personified by Shelby Frederick, dances around them, in Class Act Dance’s original ballet Let it Be.
And yet there’s something revolutionary about Let it Be, the upcoming rock ballet from Paso Robles-based studio Class Act Dance. As far as anyone can remember, the production—which opens at the Templeton Performing Arts Center on Friday, May 11—is the North County’s first homegrown Beatles-inspired production, and the first ballet in the North County to be performed to the accompaniment of a live rock band. And after a visit to the show’s exciting, chaotic rehearsal, all I can say is, “What took you guys so long?” followed by, “This is going to be awesome!”
Let it Be, developed by director Terry Cline and based on an idea by Class Act Artistic Director Cheryle Armstrong, tells the bittersweet love story of Jude (Michael Scribner) and Prudence (Blythe Berg).
Jude is a young, energetic guide on the Magical Mystery Tour, and we first meet him as his passengers and he make a stop at the Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop, a family restaurant where small children are waiters. (Yikes! In his notes, Cline characterizes the scene, which features choreography by Mindy Hartman, as “a glimpse of what might be the World’s Worst Restaurant.”) When the lovely Rita, a meter maid (Cayla Cavaletto) gives Jude a ticket, it’s love at first sight—or so he believes, and he tries to express his feelings to the earnest, sweet song “I Wanna Be Your Man” (choreography by Molly Comin). But it is only after being turned down by the capricious Rita (symbolized in a wistful piece, choreographed by Armstrong, in which Jude offers her a scarf, and she, after some flirtatious back-and-forth, gives it back) that he’s able to find Prudence, his true love—with a little help from Lucy (Chelsea Farrer), a dazzling, ethereal being who descends from the sky.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- HELTER SKELTER : Jude, danced by Michael Scribner, faces his demons in a piece choreographed to the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” in Let it Be.
Prudence and Jude connect in “Here Comes the Sun,” choreographed by Amy Wescom, as the sun, personified by Shelby Frederick, looks on wisely.
This premise, summed up in words, may sound rather silly, perhaps contrived. Yet when expressed solely through dance and music—with no dialogue to cheapen the experience; labeling the obvious, limiting interpretive possibilities—it is powerful and universal. It’s not just a ballet, but a strange fever dream in which all one’s memories of the Beatles’ music, and of falling in love, and perhaps of dropping acid and going to the fair, bleed together into a glittering Technicolor wonderland. I am he as you are me, and we are all together!
Sadly, though, the trip can’t last. Prudence has some unsettling news for Jude, which she struggles to impart in “All My Loving” and the tragic, yearning “I Want You/She’s So Heavy,” with heartrending choreography by Rachel Dodson.
While all of the lead dancers are superb, Scribner’s performance is the biggest surprise. While he comes from an acting background, he only started dancing seriously in January of this year. Incredibly, though, Scribner rocks it, displaying the kind of graceful presence and keen awareness of himself in space one would expect from a far more experienced dancer. And where many new dancers seem to forget that the face is part of the body, Scribner is capable of conveying powerful emotions with both.
Those abilities are perhaps best showcased in the wild, angry, darkly energetic “Helter Skelter,” choreographed by Tiffini Hansen, in which Jude comes to terms with his demons, who manifest themselves as dancers cloaked in fluttering black. The piece, like many in Let it Be, incorporates multiple levels; here, Scribner is seen clambering up a playground slide. It’s a comically futile image, not to mention lyrically apropos.
Don’t forget, of course, that all of this is done to the accompaniment of live rock musicians, whose performance lends an entirely new dimension to this garden of earthly delights. Comprised of members of Resination, Cuesta Ridge, The Probes, and Funk:30, under the musical direction of Cline, the band sticks closely to its source material. It might have been interesting to hear radically new arrangements of the Beatles’ work, but on the other hand, why mess with a good thing?
When Arts Editor Anna Weltner finds herself in times of trouble, the Beatles come to her. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.