Bango Defeated But Puck Lives On

Milwaukee Ballet presents ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. No Greek freak but lots of fairies.

By - May 29th, 2019 02:25 pm
Annia Hidalgo and Randy Crespo. Photo Tom Davenport.

Annia Hidalgo and Randy Crespo. Photo Tom Davenport.

Longtime Milwaukee Ballet artistic director Michael Pink insisted I work in some kind of reference to the Milwaukee Bucks for this piece. Something like “The Bucks are done but Puck is still going strong.” That was weak, but he kept on. “Something like Puck has more energy than Bango,” he offered. Hm, still lacking, but we’ll consult with our headline writer.

The show in question will, in fact, have more great dancing than you’ll ever see at a Bucks game. The Milwaukee Ballet closes its 2018-19 season with Bruce Wells’ staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set to Felix Mendelssohn’s famous score. This dance adaptation of Shakespeare’s popular tale of magic and mischief runs May 30-June 2 at Uihlein Hall in the Marcus Performing Arts Center.

“Shakespeare holds up after 400 years,” Pink says. “Midsummer has been around so long I have been trying to find a new angle to present the show. The big thing for me is the fact it’s a quintessentially classical production. Not just Shakespeare but Mendelssohn.”

The story follows the mischievous Puck, who stirs up trouble for fairies and mortals alike with a magic love potion. Choreographer Bruce Wells premiered this adaptation in 1986 at Boston Ballet. It has since appeared in several cities in the United States and Canada. This is the second time the Milwaukee Ballet will present this production following its Wisconsin premiere in 2008.

Pink says the show looks romantic, it’s full of magic and there are lots and lots of students from our academy and schools as fairies. In fact, Pink says it’s the best bang for your buck, so to speak, you’ll find all season long.

“We’ve got voices from the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. For all that we should charge more for admission, but we don’t,” Pink jokes.

Pink says part of the charm of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the youth onstage. It’s the kind of piece that brings all these elements together. “It’s not a long show so people won’t get restless,” Pink says. “It’s a great way for us to end the year. There are classical dance challenges for the company, there’s humor and magic. You can’t forget Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’.”

The march is the best-known part of the Mendelssohn work from 1842, and has since become perhaps the most frequently used wedding march, perfect for a church pipe organ.

Pink says the show is for all ages and you couldn’t find a more universally friendly show because of all the parts. “The weather promises to be decidedly undecided,” he quips, adding one more more reason to attend. “Sit with us for a couple of hours and enjoy it all.”

The show will have two principal casts to decrease the toll on the dancers. After all, the Bucks got one day off between playoff games. “We won’t burn anybody out,” Pink says, though Puck (who is not double cast) “might get a little tuckered out.” But not defeated, mind you.

So after all the years and all the shows, what does a ballet artistic director do with the summer ahead? “My son is returning from university in Scotland,” Pink says. “He’s probably going to London and get a place in London dramatic arts.” Pink’s wife Jane will be doing some work with Milwaukee’s First Stage, and his daughter has nothing to do with the arts. “She’s finishing her Ph.D and doing some amazing work, Commissioned by the Royal Navy.” A proud father indeed. He may get away for 10 days to London to visit his daughter, but that’s about it.

No, there won’t be any golf outings or hanging out at a north woods lake cottage. You see the company is moving into a new building in August. “It’s taking every spare minute of my time,” Pink explains. “We are either in a meeting or having a meeting about another meeting.”

“It’s hard to step away,” Pink muses. “There’s way too much to do. A lot of my time is trying to keep up and it pushes your leadership skills all the time.”

But somehow he survives. Pink is the longest serving artistic director in Milwaukee Ballet history, holding the position since 2002. During that same time, it must be noted, there were 10 different Bucks coaches, or an average of one every two years. And not one of them could dance.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs May 30-June 2 at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, 929 N. Water St. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased online at or through Milwaukee Ballet’s box office at 414-902-2103. Walk-up sales are also available at the Marcus Performing Arts Center.

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