Arts review: The Frog Prince

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 12:23am

The Frog Prince
Hong Kong Ballet
HK Cultural Centre Studio Theatre
Reviewed: Apr 20

Following the success of The Firecracker in 2010, Hong Kong Ballet's full-length production of The Frog Prince - A Ballet Chinois reunites choreographer Yuri Ng and associate choreographer Yuh Egami.

The result is an extravaganza of fantasy, fun and first-class classical dancing. Hugely entertaining, the work is packed with symbolism and cultural references.

The "ballet chinois" in the title reflects the encounter and clash of Eastern and Western cultures - a European art form interpreted by choreographers from China and Japan.

The production opens with a small boy (a remarkable performance by Jordan Chan) reluctantly doing ballet lessons under the stern eye of his teacher (Jin Yao). Tall, elegant and authoritative, the teacher brings to mind Ng's own teacher, Jean Wong, to whom the ballet is dedicated, along with his mother.

The boy finds himself in an adult ballet class, where he is transformed into the adult frog prince. Class ends and the action moves to the Forbidden City, where the Emperor's favourite consort, Princess Moon, faces the enmity of his mother (the Empress Dowager) and is befriended by the Frog Prince. When the imperial court is forced to flee the palace, the Empress Dowager makes Princess Moon jump into a well, where, like Alice in Wonderland, she enters a fantasy world in which characters appear in bizarre guises.

The choreography by Ng, Egami and newcomer Ricky Hu is inventive, fluid and makes exemplary use of classical technique. Among the high points are the lyrical duets for Princess Moon and the Emperor with their stunning lifts and a dazzling grand pas for seven couples. The music by Maurice Ravel is beautifully chosen, and the ballet is greatly enhanced by Bridget Steis' costumes - wildly imaginative and brilliantly realised.

The company performs magnificently: Wu Feifei is an exquisite Princess Moon, Shen Jie an effervescent yet poignant Frog Prince (left), and Wei Wei's Emperor is the tenderest of lovers. Jin chills the spine as the Empress Dowager, Li Jiabo is hilarious as the fawning chief palace guard (Chinese history buffs will get the reference to teapots and spouts), and Kostyantyn Keshyshev as the French ambassador pulls off a breathtaking bravura turn with some rhythmic gymnastics style gold hoops.

The Frog Prince can be enjoyed by children as well as adults. The production is a triumph for its creative team and the company. It demands to be rerun and deserves to be seen on a larger stage.