After a decade as the longest-running ballet on Broadway and London’s West End, three Tony Awards (among others), a widely seen televised version and even having been featured in a popular film (“Billy Elliott”), “Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake” is embarking on its first live North American tour that will only pass through town for a week. Much has been made of Bourne having supplanted the iconic ballet swan image of white tutu-clad female ballerinas with shirtless muscle-bound male dancers sporting feather knickers, and indeed, many interpret such a bold switch as making this a “gay” Swan Lake since the male prince and male swan get it on, as it were. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but hey, these are supposed to be swans, after all, which innovative choreographer/director Bourne chooses to interpret in a masculine and aggressive manner more in line with actual swan behavior though possessing no less grace and elegance than the traditional pencil-shaped female swans of ballet lore. That such an updating works so powerfully and is affecting audiences so deeply without altering the story nor a note of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score is the real triumph here and a sobering reminder that great art and popular culture can on rare occasion blissfully unite. (Dennis Polkow)
“Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake” plays at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph, (312)902-1400, through February 26.