Pennsylvania Ballet's fresh and playful 'Coppelia'

The Pennsylvania Ballet will perform "Coppelia" again Sunday afternoon, when Mayor Nutter is slated to make a cameo.
The Pennsylvania Ballet will perform "Coppelia" again Sunday afternoon, when Mayor Nutter is slated to make a cameo. (ALEXANDER IZILIAEV)
Posted: March 15, 2014

Coppelia is a thoroughly enjoyable family-friendly ballet, the silly story of a love triangle among a girl, a boy, and a doll. Pennsylvania Ballet made it as fresh and funny as it deserves to be when it began a two-performance run at the Academy of Music on Saturday.

The evening cast featured Lauren Fadeley as Swanilda, and her acting was spot-on - charming, naive, playful, a little naughty. Her real-life husband, Francis Veyette, played her boyfriend, Franz, who would flirt with anything on two feet - even if that anything turned out to be Coppelia, a doll sitting in the window of Dr. Coppelius, the toymaker.

Fadeley and Veyette danced and acted well together, but Fadeley played young while Veyette looked old for the role.

The performance was also marred by small errors. Fadeley missed a series of steps in her Act 1 variation; Veyette's double air turns were consistently one and a half revolutions. In Act 3, a pair of corps dancers didn't get their lift off the ground.

Several dancers appeared nervous, but Fadeley recovered quickly from her mistake, and her dancing improved as the performance went on. It included an impressive set of fouett├ęs facing in four directions in the Act 3 wedding pas de deux.

In classic Petipa choreographic tradition, the ballet has several showy dances that have nothing to do with the story. Brooke Moore stretched and floated across the stage as Dawn, the strongest of a trio of such divertissements. Caralin Curcio, as Prayer, performed a soft dance with gorgeous leg extensions, and Rachel Maher as Spinner presented precise pointe work.

Another standout was Kelsey Hellebuyck, who gave an exuberant performance as a villager with whom Veyette shared a flirtatious dance in Act 1.

The women of the corps, Swanilda's friends, have more to do than in some ballets, coaxing her to break into the toy workshop and egging her on as she explores the dolls, ultimately taking Coppelia's place in the window. It's fun to see each dancer's personality and acting.

Jeffrey Gribler, retired principal dancer and ballet master, played Dr. Coppelius with humor and eccentricity as the toymaker who bumbles about town and believes magic can bring the dolls in his wacky workshop to life.

There is another chance to see Coppelia, on Sunday afternoon. As part of Pennsylvania Ballet's 50th anniversary celebration, Mayor Nutter is scheduled to make a cameo as the mayor of Coppelia's Eastern European village. He'll don colorful robes and preside over a festival for a new bell and later the nuptials of Swanilda and Franz.


Additional performance: 2 p.m. Sunday, Academy of Music, $30-$125, 215-893-1999.


edunkel@philly.com

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