Queensland Ballet presents a stunning and truly funny production of La Fille mal gardée – “The Wayward Daughter”, or, more literally, “The Badly Guarded Girl”. Young lovers Lise and Colas are forbidden from being together by Lise’s mother, the influential Widow Simone, who has arranged a marriage for Lise to the son of a wealthy vineyard owner. Lise is unimpressed by Alain, the man she is supposed to marry, and who is far more enchanted by his precious umbrella than with her. The ballet follows this colourful cast of characters as Lise seeks to escape from her mother’s watchful eye and her arranged marriage, and the Widow Simone seeks to control her wayward daughter.
La Fille mal gardée has gone through many revisions over the years, from its debut in 1789 in France, under a different title, to modern adaptations that keep it alive and relevant in global repertory. Queensland Ballet performs Marc Ribaud’s playful choreography with the assistance of the choreographer and stager Craig Lord-Sale, against the charming backdrop of French countryside in the 1950’s (including a beautiful vintage Vespa!). Costuming by Lexi De Silva, lighting designed by Jon Buswell and incredibly detailed sets designed by Richard Roberts make the performance a visual feast.
Ferdinand Herold’s score, arranged by John Lanchbery, was performed beautifully by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Queensland Ballet’s Music Director Nigel Gaynor.
Laura Hidalgo was cast in the lead role of Lise for the performance, but a sudden change of casting was required during the performance. Hidalgo – who danced as beautifully as ever while she was onstage, with elegant extensions and precise footwork – was replaced by Mia Heathcote partway through Act 1. There was a very quick changeover, and it was less than five minutes before the performance resumed. The cast adjusted admirably, especially Victor Estevez, who was halfway through a pas de deux with Hidalgo when the curtain was lowered and the change was made. His chemistry with Heathcote as they started from the beginning of the pas de deux was immediate. True professionalism from everyone involved.
In the role of the mischievous Lise, Mia Heathcote shone. Graceful as always, she was very animated and expressive and created a fantastic onstage presence. Her pirouettes were particularly lovely, especially the series of pirouettes in Act 2, and stunning set of fouettés in her final pas de deux with Colas.
Victor Estevez danced the role of Colas, Lise’s lover. Is there anything he can’t do? Excellent elevation, neat leaps, and clean turns all performed with technical precision throughout the entire performance. His chemistry with both Hidalgo and Heathcote was impressive – even more so given his unexpected change of partner.
Carlos Ramos’ passionate performance as the sweet, umbrella-wielding Alain was an utter delight – his first solo and dance with Lise (and, unbeknownst to him, Colas) had the audience laughing out loud. While executing his choreography, which often bordered on slapstick comedy, Ramos also maintained his excellent technique and displayed flexibility, strong elevation and suspension.
The whole company gave a performance worthy of a standing ovation, but it was Jack Lister who truly stole the show as the Widow Simone. The Widow’s clog dance in Act 2 is always an audience favourite, and Lister’s performance of it – accompanied by Alexander Idaszak, Joel Woellner, Rian Thompson and Vito Bernasconi, wearing tap shoes – amused the audience with his exaggerated antics. Despite the overacting required by the role, Lister’s skilful execution of the choreography never faltered either. The chemistry between Lister and Heathcote was excellent, resulting in some very believable and amusing physical humour.
The corps de ballet created dynamic crowd scenes as the villagers and the friends of Lise and Colas, and the children who performed with the company had very good technique and timing as well.
A charming ballet, sweet and funny and full of life, La Fille mal gardée is sure to become a family favourite with its humour, colourful characters, beautiful dancing and stunning setting.
Queensland Ballet performs La Fille mal gardée at QPAC, Brisbane from August 4-19 before touring regionally to Rockhampton, Maryborough, Gold Coast and Toowoomba