Review: Boston Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ Makes for Holiday Magic

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – The Bear in Boston Ballet's "The Nutcracker" during the Party Scene in dress rehearsal. Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.
Written by Eesha Pendharkar

By Eesha Pendharkar
BU News Service

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – The Bear in Boston Ballet's "The Nutcracker" during the Party Scene in dress rehearsal. Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – The Bear in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker during the Party Scene in dress rehearsal. Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

Have you ever wanted to watch a bear do ballet? How about while witnessing live snowflakes and sugar plum fairies?

If you’re in the mood for some holiday magic, enchantment and spectacle is on stage at the Boston Opera House, where the Boston Ballet is performing Mikko Nissinen’s re-imagining of The Nutcracker.

“Every year I hear from audiences that they cannot miss The Nutcracker — the holiday season simply doesn’t feel complete without it,” Nissinen said in a press release. “The Nutcracker has become one of Boston’s treasures; it’s a tradition for our patrons, our students, and our dancers. The magic of the theater—the live music, exquisite sets and costumes, and brilliant dancing— continues to enthrall audiences year after year.” 

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – Boston Ballet's Seo Hye Han and Paul Craig as Snow Queen and King, farewell to Clara, Della Wada-Gill, and The Nutcraker Prince, Patrick Yogum, at dress rehearsal of “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – Boston Ballet’s Seo Hye Han and Paul Craig as Snow Queen and King, farewell to Clara, Della Wada-Gill, and The Nutcraker Prince, Patrick Yogum, at a dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker. Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – The Nutcraker Prince, Patrick Yocum and Clara, Delia Wada-Gill, at dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet's "The Nutcraker." Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – The Nutcraker Prince, Patrick Yocum and Clara, Delia Wada-Gill, at a dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

The ballet begins with Clara Silberhaus, played by 15-year-old Delia Wada-Gill on opening night, wandering the streets. The story unfolds as Clara’s uncle Drosselmeier arrives at the Christmas party with the nutcracker doll Clara’s brother Fritz broke. Drosselmeier’s arrival also means an energetic Harlequin dance by Irlan Silva and Ji Young Chae as the robot ballerina. The dancing bear leaped onto the stage to huge applause and the packed opera house couldn’t stop giggling in unison at the comically proportioned bear doing splits in mid-air.

Once Clara drifted to sleep, the Christmas tree gets larger and grander, and The Nutcracker literally comes to life. The Nutcracker Prince’s fight with the mouse king, although not extremely captivating, had children in the audience glad to see more furry costumes onstage. The highlight was when the set transformed into the enchanting Magical Forest, where everything, including the Snow Queen and King’s outfits, glittered with a beautiful, silvery shimmer.

The Snow Queen and King’s duet was one of the two routines of the family-friendly show meant for showcasing and focusing on the sheer talent of the Boston Ballet performers, with Seo Hye Han and Paul Craig’s impressive chemistry making the routine flow smoothly.

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – Seo Hye Han and Paul Craig as Snow Queen and King at dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet's “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

BOSTON, November 25, 2016 – Seo Hye Han and Paul Craig as Snow Queen and King at a dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Kankanit Wiriyasajja.

The opera house lobby buzzed with people excitedly recalling the snow and the comical furry characters as the ballet was ushered into the second act, in which Clara and the Nutcracker Prince arrive at his kingdom. The music, led by Beatrice Jona Affron, the company’s principal guest conductor, was noticeably more vibrant in the parts that presented Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dancers to reflect the diverse backgrounds. The Arabian duet, performed by Lasha Khozashvili and Lia Cirio, was an interesting change from traditional ballet moves.

The Sugar Plum fairy’s performance easily stood out as the most memorable dance of the evening. Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Yocum’s grand pas de deux in the Kingdom of Sweets was a stunning climax to the performance.

“Mother Ginger was my favorite part,” said 9-year-old Isabelle Abramovitz, whose mother Margaret said that they were visiting Boston and The Nutcracker for Isabelle’s birthday. “I’ve watched the performance many times, in Baltimore, Minneapolis, and the smaller community theaters. It’s always wonderful,” said Abramovitz. “I always love the Sugar Plum Fairy dance, that’s my favorite part.”

Misa Kuranaga’s performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy stood out from all the talent on the stage on opening night, although her partner and Nutcracker prince Patrick Yocum was a great complement to her skill in the grand pas de deux.

The famous, festive ballet was a treat for people of all ages, with the intricately designed costumes and sets by Robert Perdziola, complete with sparkling, festive lights by Mikki Kunttu. More than 200 students from Boston Ballet School joined the cast for this production.

The new version of the Nutcracker, which Nissinen described as “a completely new visualization,” is sure to enthrall audiences and make for a perfect addition to Boston’s festive season.

Tickets for The Nutcracker are available at bostonballet.org. Student rush tickets are just $25, cash only. Performances run through December 31.

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