“The Sleeping Beauty”

Presented by Boston Ballet at the Boston Opera House through April 7.

The one peril in Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen’s vivacious stewardship of his company is how deftly he’s immersed audiences in the ever-exciting realm of contemporary dance. It could give us all reason to look past chestnuts like “The Sleeping Beauty.” Do not. Boston Ballet’s Beauty is a masterpiece — a sumptuous production that heaves with emotional heft, enchants with gorgeous sets and costumes and most importantly captivates with stunning dance. Interestingly, it’s likely that the push Nissinen has given the company toward technically challenging contemporary dance has made its principal dancers and soloists so masterful at classical ballet.

Based on the classic fairy tale, “The Sleeping Beauty” was first choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1890 to P.I. Tchaikovsky’s score. Boston Ballet “honors the distinguished ballet lineage” by using the original choreography, the company notes. The story takes us from the birth of Princess Aurora in a lavish kingdom, to the spell cast upon her by the slighted fairy Carabosse, to Aurora’s hundred year sleep and reawakening at the kiss of the earnest Prince Desire. As Aurora on Opening Night, Misa Kuranaga danced divinely — so perfect and compelling to leave you felled under her own spell. There’s dynamism too in Carabosse who arrives with a hint of “Wicked” in her green cloaks and a dash of Kathy Griffin in her dramatic spell-casting and fiery red hair. The family will enjoy the comedy of the piece’s final act when a host of fairy-tale characters including Puss’n Boots, Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast all attend the wedding of the Prince and Aurora.  Only several times a year do I implore you to stop what you’re doing and order tickets. This is one of those times because this is dance at its most perfect.


As presented by Arts Emerson

This past weekend, Arts Emerson presented an all-too-short run of Daniel Beaty’s “Emergency.” In a swift, 75-minute production, the actor/writer/performer delivered a fascinating and supremely entertaining take on the African-American experience or the “post-traumatic slave syndrome” as he defines it at one point. Beaty portrays over 25 characters in the show, who begin to converge on Lower Manhattan when a slave ship suddenly rises from the Hudson River coming to rest in front of the Statue of Liberty.  With the slightest turn, gesture or stoop, Beaty moves from characters like a contestant on “America’s Next Top Poet,” to a vacuous school girl to a “slaveologist” from Ghana to name just a select few.  Beaty’s poetry sears, his characters compel and his voice astonishes in song.  I make mention of the performance, even though it has completed its run, because Beaty is committed to an ongoing relationship with Arts Emerson. The next time he appears in town, go see him. He is infinitely talented. He should be way more famous. And after the show, he will leave you in very deep contemplation.

“Banned in Boston”

Urban Improv’s annual benefit is Friday, April 5 at the House of Blues

Founded in 1992 in response to the violence plaguing Boston’s neighborhoods, Urban Improv uses theater to educate students about surviving life’s more challenging moments like incidents of bullying, racism, homophobia, peer pressure and aggression. In a process they call a “rehearsal for life,” Urban Improv’s acting ensemble coaches kids through contentious situations staged for them to star in. Most of the program’s revenue comes from its annual, high profile event, Banned in Boston. It’s the only moment each year where you’ll find most of Boston’s bold-facers willing to put themselves on stage in a host of satirical skits. This year you’ll find comedic takes on “50 Shades of Gray,” the election of the pope and the thriller “Homeland.” This year’s marquee stars include Gov. and Mrs. Patrick, Bill Weld, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mayor Tom Menino, Matt Siegel and Emily Rooney, just to name a few. And now with a shameless plug: I appear with my good friend, the gorgeous and ridiculously talented Jenny Johnson. Eat, drink and enjoy knowing that you’re having an impact on the players who have a profound one.