Dazzling “Nutcracker” Will Make Seasons Bright

A review of The Nutcracker
at Pacific Northwest Ballet
by Jonathan H.

I will admit, I am not a huge fan of ballet or dance performances, but The Nutcracker has always been an exception. Having seen this several times in my life, I came in sort of knowing what to expect. I knew I would see dazzling costumes and sets, lots of snow, beautiful dancing, and wonderful music. And to be frank, this is exactly what I got. But there was something different about this visit to McCaw Hall for a performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker. For the first time I realized this was no ordinary ballet, but rather an event. Coming in, I saw employees in costume singing Christmas carols and doing magic tricks for children, and the lobby of the theatre was decorated with all kinds of holiday decor. I also saw various models of nutcrackers placed all around, giving plenty of photo opportunities for families. This in a way adds to the magic of The Nutcracker, because for many children it truly is something big. And I guarantee that this is probably the biggest and one of the best you will see anywhere. Of course, when most tickets run at $60 a pop, that is what you would expect.

One of the most unique things about this Nutcracker is that you don’t get the traditional experience you may get other places. Yes, you do get the story we all know and love, and the characters are the same for the most part. The thing I realized as I watched this ballet is that it can be very open to interpretation. The only thing holding it together at the start is the orchestrations by Tchaikovsky, and a simple plot line. After that, several things can be decided for themselves. And PNB is not afraid of changing the traditional experience. Instead of a dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, you get a dance of the flowers, and instead of the second act taking place in a fantasy land, you get a Southeast Asian setting. And all of these things make the show so much more than a normal show.

PNB is also very proud to have their show artistically designed by famous author and illustrator, Maurice Sendak (known for his work illustrating the books “Little Bear” and “Where the Wild Things Are”). His work is very obvious and recognizable, making many of his designs bulky and large. His sets are very elaborate and beautiful, with most everything being two dimensional, although creating the effect of being in three dimensions. He also designed the costumes. Although not as obvious as his artwork, they are still as colorful and elaborate as his sets. There are some dazzling special effects included in the show. Like I mentioned before, it snows on stage. And this is not the fake looking kind you would see on other stages. This looks very realistic and is very beautiful in the Snowflakes dance. It was also great to see a giant 25-foot mouse king come out on the stage, as well as seeing a lit-up Christmas tree triple in size as Clara shrinks to mouse size. These effects add to the magic already added by the performers.

The cast of this show is incredibly large, at about fifty dancers not including the 200 children alternating the roles throughout the show’s run. But each one of these fine dancers is almost flawless in their performances, while telling the story and keeping perfect style in their dances. Even the children are impressive, despite the fact that they don’t have the experience that the adults have. Elizabeth Malanga, who plays Clara, is very good having a lot to do at a young age. Other stand-outs include Older Clara (Carrie Imler) and the Nutcracker Prince (Batkhurel Bold), who are beautiful and precise together in their performances. I also liked Uko Gorter as Herr Drosselmeier who, although he has little dancing, does a great job with his character. And I want to give special recognition to the orchestra, doing a flawless job of playing each one of the recognizable suites beautifully. They are so good you almost forget they are even there.

Getting tickets to this show shouldn’t be much of a problem, considering that there are over 40 performances of this show scheduled, and the fact that the theatre is exceptionally large means that sold-out houses aren’t likely to happen every night. But do not doubt that it will be crowded, because this is an extremely popular show. The only unfortunate thing with this is that you can’t get the $5 tickets you would get normally with your pass. Sunday, November 30th at 1 pm is the only exception, but there is limited seating for us Teen-Tixers. Otherwise, you will need to pay the normal ticket price. But don’t let that get you down, because this is a seasonal event not to miss. I guarantee it will be worth the price of admission.

The Nutcracker, presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet,
performs at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center
now through December 30th, 2008.
Contact pnb.org or 206.441.3574 for tickets and information

Please note: This production is NOT Teen Tix eligible. Full ticket prices apply.
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