Creature is best feature of SF Ballet’s ‘Frankenstein’

Vitor Luiz, as the Creature, has the best part in San Francisco Ballet’s “Frankenstein.” (Courtesy Erik Tomasson/ San Francisco Ballet)

The best parts of San Francisco Ballet’s “Frankenstein” are well known from monster movies: when the Creature comes to life, and when he angrily confronts his maker.

Vitor Luiz, as the Creature, has the best, most dynamic, role in British choreographer Liam Scarlett’s full-length ballet, a co-commission with the Royal Ballet onstage at the War Memorial Opera House in its local opening.

Yet a good deal of the nearly three-hour piece, based on Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic (perhaps it’s not so widely read in the U.S.?), is almost snooze-worthy.

Scarlett hasn’t come up with edgy or original movement to depict the back story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his family in the ballet’s opening scenes — too many filled with superfluous groups. (The corps, typically appealing, adds little to the proceedings.)

And although it’s powered by the company’s always superlative production values — lights by David Finn, projections by Finn Ross, cool script graphics by Gregory Mislin — “Frankenstein,” which premiered in London in 2016, mostly doesn’t feel fresh or new.

Lowell Liebermann’s classic, melodic score, which crescendos at appropriately dramatic moments, is fine, as are the lead dancers.

Joseph Walsh skillfully and adeptly communicates Victor’s ups and downs, and Frances Chung, the company’s most joyous dancer, is lovely as his sweetheart and wife, Elizabeth. They’re pretty and competent, in not incredibly interesting, and too numerous, duets.

The excellent Angelo Greco, as Victor’s friend Henry, is nicely showcased in a few action-packed moments, as is young Max Behrman-Rosenberg as Victor’s little brother, who meets his end at the hands of the monster.

Perhaps John Macfarlane’s set design is what’s most exciting about the show: Scenes in the anatomy theater, where medical students dissect bodies and where an electric current from a huge contraption jolts a dead body to life, are thrilling. They’re just too few.

REVIEW
Frankenstein
Presented by San Francisco Ballet
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 24-25, 2 p.m. Feb. 26
Tickets: $25 to $375
Contact: (415) 865-2000, www.sfballet.org

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