Pet Shop Boys launch first ballet

Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant talks about writing the ballet's score

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British pop duo the Pet Shop Boys have unveiled their first ballet, a dance work based on Hans Christian Andersen's story The Most Incredible Thing.

Venezuelan dancer Javier De Frutos has choreographed the piece, a fairytale about a ruler who offers his daughter and half his kingdom in a contest.

The result, writes Judith Mackrell in The Guardian, "stretches the concept of ballet into new terrain".

But The Independent's critic demurred, saying the piece was "a step too far".

"It's an ambitious, sometimes clever project, fatally undermined by waffling choreography," writes Zoe Anderson.

"The duo have fun building up layers of sound, but the score doesn't have the irresistible sheen of their best pop."

The ballet - which Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys has called a mix of "drama, energy, power and glamour" - runs at Sadler's Wells in London until Saturday 26 March.

OUR VERDICT

A simple Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale bursts spectacularly onto the stage in this new production.

With a stirring score from Lowe and Tennant and choreography from Javier De Frutos, it is fresh and very modern.

Tight, sinewy ensemble pieces contrast with more flowing and gentle moments between the romantic leads.

Sumptuous staging and costumes add to the air of a make-believe tale brought to life.

Moments of the music are unmistakably Pet Shop Boys, but they also steer their way into booming and orchestral territory.

The ballet's three acts sailed by with ease and ended with a triumphant curtain call for its creators.

It is a spectacle which deserves a longer outing in the not too distant future.

Former Royal Ballet star Ivan Putrov leads the 16-strong cast.

According to The Guardian's critic, the ballet's score features "house and trance, wild synths, romantic schmaltz and mercurial dissonances".

"From first to last the music comes at a relentless, pop-video pace," she continues.

"I defy anyone to be bored by this phantasmagorical new collaboration," writes Mark Monahan in the Daily Telegraph, calling the production "a treat".

Andersen's fable, he continues "becomes an excuse for some tightly constructed, tautly performed modern dance, as well as some of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe's best music for years."

For Sarah Frater of the London Evening Standard, though, the evening was "fun but a bit baffling".

"The main problem is the story isn't always clear," she writes. "You'll struggle to keep track without reading the programme."

Best known for such hits as West End Girls, It's a Sin and Go West, Tennant and his band-mate Chris Lowe have recently been combining their pop careers with theatrical forays.

In 2001, they wrote the score and lyrics for the musical Closer to Heaven, while last year they provided music for David Almond's play My Dad's a Birdman at London's Young Vic.

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