Hodgepodge of fairy tales delights children regardless of false expectations
A night at the Cairo Opera House’s Harry Potter Ballet sounded like a ticket onto the Hogwarts Express and the excitement in the theater as kids and parents of all nationalities shuffled to their seats was electrifying.
Unfortunately for all of these eager fans, this show is a case of false advertising. Though listed as the “Harry Potter Ballet, its true title is “Wizard Harry and the Snow Queen. An imitation of Harry in a wizard-like black and gold costume makes several short cameos to lead the other characters, mainly a pair of young lovers, Kay and Gird, through this mishmash of fairytales.
The writers of this story seemed to think that stealing pieces from all of the most popular children’s tales would make “Wizard Harry and the Snow Queen a hit.
However, if you can get over the disappointment of deception, there are bright spots in this show.
First of all, these kids can dance. Visiting Cairo from the Kharkov Children’s Ballet Company in the Ukraine, the performers are 5-18 years old. This show stretches their abilities, with the graceful leaps of classical ballet, some modern rock dance, and goofy circus moves. Their talents might be better displayed in a more coherent show, but this patchwork of a story does not stop these young dancers from displaying their skill.
The principle characters, Kay and Gird, are separated at the beginning of the play by the evil Ice Queen who falls in love with Kay. During the ballet, Gird must search for her true love through all of the seasons. Wizard Harry saves her from an evil mountain king and various forest elves and spirits. Elements from “Romeo and Juliet, “Sleeping Beauty, “Pinocchio, and almost any fairy tale you can think of appear in this story, making it rather hard to follow despite a detailed narrative in the program.
The music of the ballet is as disparate as the story. It switches off between the dramatic classical overtures one would expect in this type of show, new-age Enya, appropriate to peaceful forest scenes, and jarring rock ‘n’ roll. Oddly enough, the score also steals some of the themes from the “Lord of the Rings movies.
In several scenes in the evil queen’s ice palace, the kids wear cold, silvery costumes as they pirouette around the stage with precision. Their movements are so restrained that one begins to wonder whether they have any of the spontaneous fun that should come with childhood.
But the lively “Pleasure land – this empty title does not do this scene justice at all – has the kids clowning around, dancing with abandon. They got the audience clapping to the merry circus music and invited some of the children sitting in the front rows up onstage for a quick round of tug-of-war with the dancers.
The tug-of-war was probably only meant for a few young audience members, but once everyone saw what a good time they were having onstage, all of the kids crowded to the front of the theater.
The dancers managed to get the kids back to their seats by throwing candy into the audience and putting on subdued orchestral music rather than the rousing tunes that had gotten everyone stirred up.
This show is certainly not what it advertises itself as, and it’s unlike any ballet I’ve seen before with its messy mix of stories and musical genres. But the kids around me loved it. They gave the performance a standing ovation. If your family is tired of movies, playgrounds, and other typical kid entertainment, then “Wizard Harry and the Snow Queen will certainly provide a unique experience.