BALLET REVIEW Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker Sparkles

Try Not To Dance Your Way Home!

2620 nutcracker
Mikko Nissinen’s choreography dazzles in Boston Ballet’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.
­Gene Schiavone—Courtesy of the Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker

Boston Opera House. Boston, Mass.

December 5, 2009

Choreographed by Mikko Nissinen, the Boston Ballet’s rendition of this classic hits all the familiar, comforting notes, while also including a few cheeky details to keep things interesting for perennial attendees. In an effort to trim the show to under two hours (a smart move, considering the number of children both in the corps and in the audience), the action proceeded with a frenetic pace. Act I opens with a Christmas Eve party at the Silberhaus home. Clara’s magical godfather Drosselmeier arrives at the party bearing animated gifts, including a dancing bear unique to the Boston production. (As a figure skating Chewbacca once told me following a performance of Star Wars on Ice, “It is not easy to twirl in a big fur suit.”) Each of his gifts performs a small, cleverly arranged sequence that helps you understand what Toy Story would be like if it were ever adapted for ballet.

With a flurry of midnight magic and some spiffy special effects, the tree on stage grows to the appropriately gargantuan size and Clara’s Nutcracker transforms into a live prince (ah, if it were only so easy!). There is an epic battle between the Nutcracker and a brave battalion of mice, following which Clara and her Nutcracker are whisked away to a snowy forest, where they are welcomed by the Snow Queen and King, danced beautifully by Tiffany Hedman and Bo Busby. Their lifts appear effortless and their chemistry together is phenomenal. Also worth noting here is the set design — it is enchanting, with softly falling snow against a backdrop of regal evergreens in a flood of lavender lighting. It is what Californians picture “winter on the east coast” to be like before we actually move here.

Act II is where the serious dancing really begins. Clara and the Nutcracker arrive at the Kingdom of Sweets, where they are treated to performances by the Sugar Plum Fairy and all of her subjects. Of note were Brittany Summer and Pavel Gurevich, perfectly embodying sultry, slinky, and impossibly lithe during the creative choreography of the Arabian Dance. The trio of Russian dancers during the Trepak section quickly became an audience favorite by busting moves that would make your neighborhood break-dancer jealous, and one small black sheep on-stage during the Dance of the Reed Pipes sprinkled the familiar piece with a touch of humor. While Lorna Feijoo was technically outstanding as Sugar Plum, with extended arabesques and fouettes en pointe that made my toes wince, her performance in the Grand pas de deux lacked a bit of the artistry and delicacy that makes some Sugar Plums extra sweet.

Perhaps more well-known than the ballet itself, Tchaikovsky’s iconic score was conducted by Jonathan McPhee and played wonderfully by the Boston Ballet Orchestra — I would have stayed for just the music. Their new orchestra pit places the musicians closer to the audience, providing a warmer and more intimate sound that fully immerses all of your senses into the loveliness of the performance.

My fear in attending a popular, time-honored performance is always that the dancing during familiar pieces does not have to be particularly inventive for the audience to find them enjoyable, but for the most part Nissinen does not cut corners, and holds his dancers to high standards throughout the show. This season’s performance is sweet — without the calories! — and worth that trip off campus, several times over.

DANCEY: Girls, forget your stilettos — the sprightly choreography will have you jetté-ing all over T-station platforms on the way home.

CHANCEY: With luck, student rush tickets may still be available for $20 (cash only) at the box office, two hours before curtain.

ROMANCEY: Lure a +1 to experience the magnificent Boston Opera House all decked out for the holiday season including doorways adorned strategically with sprigs of mistletoe...