Celebrated British choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne has had a long and exciting career; and, yes, he was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth in 2016. Bourne came onto the dance scene when he was 22 years old – comparatively late for a professional dancer – but talent knows no limits. For 14 years, he danced and created many roles in his own work. As artistic director of his first company, he created many award-winning works from 1987 to 2002. In 2002, he launched his New Adventures dance company, which quickly became England’s busiest and most successful.
Bourne’s works have included choreography for London’s West End and New York’s Broadway, with his special talents resulting in global success for “Mary Poppins,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Oliver.” Not one to rest on his laurels, Bourne has been active in film and television. He is an associate artist and resident company at Sadler’s Wells, where New Adventures have performed to record-breaking crowds since 2002. Obviously, a man of his vision and creativity has been awarded too many awards to mention, including Tony and Olivier (British Oscar) honors. In 2016, New Adventures presented the world premiere of his latest work, “The Red Shoes,” which solidified his reputation as a skillful, talented, and award-winning choreographer.
MATTHEW BOURNE’S EARLY ADVENTURES give the audience the opportunity to experience his earlier works from 25 to 30 years ago. The program is divided into three distinct sections. “Watch with Mother (1991)” follows a bunch of school kids as they act like…well, kids, with the energy, excitement, and innocence of childhood – but also with the competitive and sometimes cruel and bullying behaviors which children occasionally exhibit. Set to Percy Grainger’s own piano compositions and arrangements of Bach and Faure, this piece has not been seen for over 25 years.
“Town and County (1991)” explores ideas about national character from a bygone era through music by talents like Edward Elgar, Noel Coward, and Percy Grainger. These are the true stereotypes of Great Britain, from the pampered, elegant hoi-poloi who pass their time being insufferable and going on fox hunts to the merry, country bumpkins of the countryside.
“The Infernal Galop (1989)” gives Bourne the opportunity to describe the French as seen by his uptight countrymen. This “Franglais Spectacular” lets some French icons like Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet do the “talking” while the company engages in some surprising vignettes. Of course, no celebration of France would be complete without Offenbach’s famous can-can – and what a great way to end the evening.
MATTHEW BOURNE’S EARLY ADVENTURES are a joy to the senses as company dancers float across the stage in almost impossible configurations. These are dancers without the usual earthly biological restrictions – and they certainly don’t have any back problems. To his credit, Bourne adds something special to this celebration of the dance – something which is often lacking in other presentations. There is a frequent and unexpected injection of humor, underscoring that dancing should be fun. There are also some “shockers” which must have thrown the staid audience on their ear 25 years ago. This is a brilliant production and a feast for lovers of dance and music. But it is also a treasure for people who didn’t think that music and dance were their “cup of tea.” They will be tapping their toes and chuckling right along with the dance aficionados. This is a not-to-be-missed production. Remember that the run is from May 17 to May 21 – and rush to get your tickets before it’s too late.
MATTHEW BOURNE’S EARLY ADVENTURES runs through May 21, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Bram Goldsmith Theater is located at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tickets range from $39 to $99. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.