By Gerald Morris
Alberta Ballet has become known in recent years for creating 'songbook' contemporary ballets dedicated to the life and career of individual singer-songwriters: The Fiddle and The Drum (Joni Mitchell, 2007), Fumbling Towards Ecstacy (Sarah McLachlan, 2011), and Balletlujah! (k.d. lang, 2013). But the glitziest, most glamorous, most entertaining of all is surely Love Lies Bleeding (2010), honouring one of the 20th century's most preeminent singer-songwriter teams, legendary British glam-rock superstar Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin. Since 1967, they have collaborated on more than 30 albums. In his four-decade career Elton John has sold more than 250 million records, making him one of the most successful artists of all time.
Given the incredibly larger-than-life over-the-top stage persona of Elton John, Love Lies Bleeding pulls out all the stops in a show dedicated to his career. The show features 14 classic Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs* -- and each one is an outrageous production number with dazzling costumes, eye-popping lighting effects, and vivid backdrop projections. The 30 dancers of Alberta Ballet never looked hotter.
Janet Smith in straight.com (October 14, 2011) wrote, "Love Lies Bleeding is an undeniable blast ... a gigantic, glitzy glitterball of a show — but it has more to it, too. It plays out like a risqué, gender-bending fever dream. Sensual droogs in bowler hats, skintight shiny vinyl body suits, and lurid leather-and-studs codpieces lurch and gyrate. Helmeted rocket men and women leap across a darkened stage, in front of a sea of twinkling stars, wearing red lights on their limbs. There are also male angels in metallic wings, six-foot-plus drag queens in seven-inch heels, and warped Marie Antoinettes in gold-leaf hoop skirts and matching heart-shaped wigs. If there is a star other than [Yukichi Hattori, as Elton Fan, the lead character], it is Martine Bertrand’s over-the-top costumes, creating a wild new universe for each number. You would have to work extremely hard not to like this fun, fast little ride into la-la land, from its gay-positive vibe to its titillating eye candy." Michael Crabb in The Toronto Star called it "a promiscuous, spaced out pop-rock world where excess is de rigueur and life is as tenuous as the next line of coke on a dressing room table."
Love Lies Bleeding explores the trials, tribulations, and sacrifices of a lifetime seeking and surviving superstardom. It's an unforgettable story of rock ‘n’ roll, drama, and passion as the übertalented Reginald Kenneth Dwight transforms himself into Sir Elton Hercules John and pursues worldwide fame, battles homophobia, struggles against the temptation of drugs, and eventually finds enduring love. Alberta Ballet’s Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître, choreographer of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, consulted extensively with Sir Elton John to get the right tone and to make sure that his story explores all the relevant themes -- no holds barred. Although the visual effects are superbly theatrical -- more Broadway than ballet -- Love Lies Bleeding does not shy away from the darkly tempting and sinister side of pop music. Musical styles range from soulful jazz to beat-driven rock and roll to melancholy ballads, and the choreography is a blingy, audience-friendly mix of ballet, jazz, hip-hop and musical theatre -- and there is a lot of bump ’n’ grind. Jean Grand-Maître has also layered in virtuoso ballet steps for the men in particular.
Sir Elton has said, “I am proud of what Alberta Ballet has created … It’s a strong, contemporary choreography that entertains and challenges new audiences with its new aesthetics and its powerful fusion of art mediums.”
The undiluted pleasure and excitemnt of pop-rock meets the breathtaking athleticism of ballet in the ultrasequined spectacle Love Lies Bleeding, a sensationally entertaining look at Elton John's rock n' roll life. Two nights only in Southam Hall (April 19-20). Run, don't walk to the box office, as Love Lies Bleeding -- which has played to the rock-concert raucous delight of standing room only crowds everywhere it has been performed -- is sure to sell out.
* Songs in Love Lies Bleeding are Bennie and the Jets, I’m Going to be a Teenage Idol, Honky Cat, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Rocket Man, Madman Across the Water, Have Mercy on the Criminal, Sixty Years On, I Need You to Turn to, The King Must Die, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Believe, The Bridge, and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.