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Black Sabbath - The Ballet. Total Perfection!

Riku Ito, Miki Mitzutani, Birmingham Royal Ballet. Photo Johan Persson.

Black Sabbath – the Ballet. Directed by Carlos Acosta CBE, at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 30 September.

Review by Ann Evans.

Who would have thought that mixing the heavy metal music of a rock band with the grace and beauty of ballet dancers could result in something so utterly perfect and awe inspiring? But really there’s no other way of describing Black Sabbath – the Ballet.

This production is totally magical, from the moment the Birmingham Sinfonia begin to play through the darkness of the packed auditorium and the Black Sabbath emblem of the demon appears against the curtains – the atmosphere is electric. And then, bursting into life are the dancers in black leotards, and Ozzie’s distinctive voice - Generals gathered in their masses….

Birmingham Royal Ballet. Black Sabbath - The Ballet. Photo Johan Persson.

From that moment, the excitement does not stop. Incredible, beautiful, breathtaking dance, interpretating the songs that Black Sabbath wrote and made famous – vocalist Ozzie Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward.

The ballet is in three acts. Act I: Heavy Metal Ballet, featuring: War Pigs. Iron Man, Solitude and Paranoid.

Act II: The Band, featuring: Black Sabbath, Orchid, Planet Caravan, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

Act III: Everybody is a fan, featuring: Iron Man, Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, War Pigs, Paranoid, Laguna Sunrise.

Marc Hayward and artists from Black Sabbath - The Ballet. Photo Johan Persson.

The sets for the dances are dark and dramatic with spectacular lighting effects such as more Black Sabbath emblems – circular lightboxes designed by Alexandre Arrechea, containing images of iconic moments through Black Sabbath’s career.

In Acts II and III we see Arrechea’s take on the band’s iconic demon standing on a wrecked 1970s car, spectacularly finished in a futuristic chromed metallic effect. And throughout the show we hear voice-overs from Tony, Ozzie, Geezer and Bill recalling moments through their lives and careers, many anecdotes drawing laughter from the appreciative audience.

Tzu-Chao Chou, Birmingham Royal Ballet. Photo Johan Persson.

When Carlos Acosta and Tony Iommi announced to the world their vision of this fusion of heavy metal music and ballet, the idea raised lots of eyebrows. But when they, and their incredible team of composers, choreographers, designers, musicians and experts combined their artistry, passion and expertise, the result could only be to produce a totally awesome show, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Birmingham’s Royal Ballet is one of the world’s great companies – a powerhouse of classic ballet and contemporary dance. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Music Director Koen Kessels is Britain’s busiest ballet orchestra playing throughout the UK and abroad for tours by the world’s leading ballet companies. As for Black Sabbath – four lads from Birmingham who became one of the most successful bands in rock history! As guitarist Tony Iommi says: “Black Sabbath have always been innovators and never been predictable, and it doesn’t come any more unpredictable than this!”

Javier Rojas and Yaoqian Shang. Two dancers locked in an eternal kiss as the orchestra plays Solitude. Photo Johan Persson.

Acosta and Iommi gathered an incredible team of outstanding experts around them in the creation of Black Sabbath – The Ballet. Naming just some: Assistant Director Dominic Antonucci, Music Director Koen Kessels; Lead Composer and Music Supervisor Christopher Austin; Lead Choreographer and Artistic Director Pontus Lidberg; Dramaturg Richard Thomas; Designer Alexandre Arrechea; Lighting Designer K.J; Sound Designer Marko Nyberg; Metal Curator Lisa Meyer. Credit also to choreographers Raul Reinoso and Cassi Abranches; Orchestrator Ben Foskett and Arrangements and Orchestration Joshua Hickin and composer and Orchestrator Sun Keting.

A spectacular performance. Photo Johan Persson.

On stage we also saw guitarist Marc Hayward making his Birmingham Royal Ballet debut. Usually, Marc can be found playing at gigs and festivals around the world. And in Act II we enjoyed the singing of Lechian Monaghan. And the stars of the show - the incredible dancers who are all rightfully credited in the excellent programme – a definite keepsake.

Marc Hayward and dancers. Photo Johan Persson.

The audience were no doubt a combination of rock music fans and ballet fans. For both, in many cases seeing this show was an opportunity to see and hear something new to them. I’m sure there are many ballet lovers now hooked on rock, and just as many heavy metal fans appreciative of the wonderful talented dancers performing the most amazing movements on stage.

In the finale, there was something quite unexpected that brought everyone to their feet, something that hadn't been seen since the show premierred on 23 September 2023... The dancers parted, and on stage walked Tony Iommi playing that iconic rift to Paranoid. To say the audience went wild, would be an understatement! The finale of the whole ensemble of dancers rocking to Tony Iommi and the orchestra playing Paranoid was an unforgettable moment at the end of an unforgettable show!

Tony Iommi joins the company for a special one off appearance. Photo Johan Persson.

Tony Iommi's appearance in the final moments of Wednesday 27 September show was a special guest appearance, Tony will not be featured in every performance and there are currently no other plans for more appearances.

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1 Comment

Sep 29, 2023

A magical evening, this has never been done before!

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