The lights dimmed, music grew to a crescendo and the curtains rose, transporting the audience to fifteenth-century Verona, Italy.

The final show of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet spared no expense and was sumptuous and extravagant in every way.

Seamless design and choreography combined effortlessly to bring the timeless Shakespearean tale of love and tragedy to life.

From the beginning, Sergei Prokofiev's cinematic score underpinned the drama and emotion of the ballet, working in harmony with the subtle and at times harsh movements of the dancers.


Madelaine Graham as Juliet and Joseph Skelton as Romeo were seldom off stage and both conveyed the various transitions of character required in the lead roles.

Graham's moving interpretation held the production together.

Her development from an innocent girl to a strong and passionate young woman was clearly evident through her subtle movements.

Similarly, Skelton was assured at all times, but managed to bring a certain gentleness to the stage.

There is no denying the pure talent portrayed by the cast, who each brought something different to the role.

At times, as many as 30 dancers were on stage dancing with panache and precision.

Frivolous social dancing in circles and chains and vigorous fencing leading to dramatic deaths were eye-catching to watch.

The use of slow-motion was particularly effective and showed a great deal of technique.

Undoubtedly, a highlight of the production was the magnificent set and costume designs of Academy Award-winning designer James Acheson, bringing Renaissance Verona to life.

The cleverly designed stage moved interchangeably between Juliet's balcony and bedroom, to the priory of Friar Laurence, the piazzas and streets of the city, and the Capulet's ballroom.

With the final bow and a rapturous applause, three hours of top-class ballet had come to an end.