Centre Stage


Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
Written by:Carol Heikkinen
Starring: Amanda Schull, Ethan Stiefel, Susan May Pratt, Shakiem Evans, Ilia Kulik, Sascha Radetsky, Peter Gallagher
Released: September 14, 2000
Grade: B+

Jody Sawyer (Schull) has dreams of being a dancer and at a local tryout is given a wonderful opportunity -an offer to train at the American Ballet Academy.  As teacher Jonathan Reeves (Gallagher) says to his students on the opening day, not all will go on to be a success.  The training will culminate with a gala workshop presentation in four months and from there, only six lucky people will be offered a full-time position with the Academy.

From here the story follows the standard method.  Jody struggles at first and is almost booted out of the Academy before finding her true self.  There is the guy she lusts after, Cooper (Stiefel) and the guy who lusts after her, Charlie (Radetsky).  There’s the gifted, yet uptight Maureen (Pratt) whose mother pushes her hard to get results.  Throw in a few other notables - the foreign student, the gay student, the wild student and all stereotypes are covered.

Although this gives a negative impression, Centre Stage is a very entertaining film for one main reason - the musical numbers.  There are many of them during the film with emphasis on the big finale and the choreography is reminiscent of classic musicals that these days are seldom seen.  It must have taken weeks of effort to pull off the two wonderful stage productions prominent in the film’s final climax.

The producers have not succumbed to casting Hollywood big names and have selected their cast from Ballet schools across the United States.  Schull is a member of the San Francisco Ballet and Radetsky hails from the American Ballet Company.  In an even bigger surprise, Ilia Kulik, who won the men's figure skating gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, plays Sergei the Russian student.

Having a cast with such a wide knowledge of the subject material helps the film immensely and creates passion for the characters.  You get the impression they’ve all felt these pressures before and can strongly relate to what this film has to say.