Arts ballet review

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker: A sure sign of the holidays

An immaculate welcome to the Christmas season

The Nutcracker

Performed by Boston Ballet

Boston Opera House

Running through December 31

Every holiday season, the Boston Ballet adorns its atrium with Christmas trees and festive laurels in preparation for its annual performance of The Nutcracker.

With a beloved score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker delights audiences of all ages.

At the premiere last Friday, it seemed like there were more families than at any other ballet. And it’s easy to see why. The Nutcracker is playful and concise (coming in at around two hours), while visually sophisticated and elegant.

The story follows a young girl, Clara Silberhaus (Delia Wada-Gill), and her mysterious godfather, Drosselmeier (Paul Craig), on a Christmas Eve adventure. After Drosselmeier gives her a beautiful toy nutcracker, Clara dreams of it coming to life and taking her and her godfather to magical lands.

The set and costume design, by Robert Perdziola, are captivating. As Clara and the nutcracker pass through a snowy forest to the Land of the Sweets, sparkling snow emanates from the rafters onto their majestic carriage.

The Land of the Sweets has some spectacular performances. Petra Conti and Sabi Varga as Arabian coffee are silky and graceful, and Conti impressively moves her body like a contortionist to the slow and exotic oboe.

But the audience gave the most applause to the energetic Russian Dance, from Isaac Akiba, Albert Gordon, and Samuel Zaldivar. The most exciting dance of the ballet, the Russian Dance, or Trepak, showcases boundless athleticism from the three dancers in a breathtaking minute.

My favorite ballerina, whom I’ve praised in the past for her surprising expressiveness, is petit principal dancer Misa Kuranaga. As the Sugar Plum Fairy, she looked diminutive next to the muscular Paulo Arrais as The Nutcracker. She’s a splendid fit for her sweet and good-natured character.

The ballet is also filled with humorous moments, often the result of fabulous costume work from Perdziola. Mother Ginger, who appears in the Land of the Sweets, has a comically huge hoop skirt that houses her many children. The magical dancing bear, who appears as a gift of Drosselmeier, drew laughs for his ridiculous stunts but also praise for his technical skill in a full-body costume.

As long as the Boston Ballet exists, I’m sure they’ll be performing The Nutcracker every holiday season. The timeless classic, with a huge cast of children, is inspirational to aspiring dancers and a necessary tradition for many families. There’s ample opportunity to see it — The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 31.