note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
‘Twas days before Christmas, and all through the place, not a creature was stirring in this time and space. For two hours, the Boston Ballet spun its magic, with all its classic beauty: Mikko Nissinen’s stunning choreography; Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music, conducted by Jonathan McPhee; David Walker and Charles Heightchew’s splendid, lavish period costumes; Helen Pond and Herbert Senn’s Victorian and fairytale sets; Alexander Nichols’ subtle lighting.
Children gasped at “The Nutcracker’s” special effects, including the growing 42-foot lighted tree; purple-cloaked magician Herr Drosselmeier and his goddaughter, little Clara Silberhaus, flying through the sky in 1835 in a hot air balloon; and Drosselmeier’s magical tricks, (for which he was trained by Marco the Magi and David Bull, of the record-setting Guinness Book of Records/internationally acclaimed Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company).
The opening is breathtaking, as shoppers and carolers stroll snowy streets, greeting each other. against a dark, teal sky and snow-capped houses and trees. The scrim lifts, revealing a Christmas Eve cotillion party at little Clara and Fritz Silberhaus’ house. Working in his shop last minute on a special gift for the children, Herr Drosselmeier arrives late, but entertains the gathering with magic tricks, and life-size dancing dolls, Harlequin and Columbine, and a huge teddy bear. then presents his gift to Clara – a carefully crafted nutcracker. Amidst a charming set of children’s dances, followed by the adults, and comedic grandma and grandpa, tumbling and twirling dizzily, Clara’s brother Fritz and the boys engage in a tug of war with the girls, breaking the nutcracker, and Clara’s spirits. During the night, Clara sneaks downstairs, where the witching hour becomes magical. The soldier nutcracker looms, life-size, as little mice and big rats scamper about.
The fighting scene between Clara, the toys, and the Nutcracker soldier leading the charge against the rodent legions is swift and funny. Stage lights are darkened to dispel fear for tiny theatergoers.
The scene shifts dramatically, after Clara and the nutcracker arrive by sleigh into the enchanted forest’s land of ice and cold, where twinkling snowflakes and the snow queen dance merrily, then on to the magnificently pastel castle, Land of the Sweets, where the glittery Sugar Plum Fairy, dashing cavalier, (the transformed nutcracker) and dancing flowers entertain Clara and Drosselmeier. So do international dancers - Spanish, Arabian, Russian, Chinese; and a super-tall grandmere in large, white wig and massive flounced dress, under which children emerge, dancing. Little Bo Peeps with their flocks of white sheep, and a mischievous trailing black sheep prance about, as do dancing teddy bears.
Grand jetes, leaps, twirling, dizzying pirouettes, Russian dancers’ incredible jumps, with both legs aloft in the air, as though they had sprung from a trampoline, and two Arabian dancers performing gracefully, acrobatically, are beautifully performed, adding to the production’s opulence.
Hundreds of little girls in tulle and tiaras, sparkly shoes and dresses sat agog, their visions of sugar plums, fairies, prancing ballerinas, and dancing toys, defying gravity with their graceful leaps and turns.
Because the dancers are double- and cross-cast for specific performances, I haven’t listed them here. Whether they are principals, soloists or members of the corps de ballet taking the spotlight as soloists or pas de deux, the Boston Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is magnificent. It’s easy to become lost in its magic and timelessness, and hard to envision how they’ll improve it next year by retiring these costumes and sets.
The original performance of the ballet premiered Dec. 18, 1892, at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has become the nonpareil Christmas family entertainment fare since then, enchanting little girls and boys, their parents and grandparents, who share their love of beauty, imagination, and joy of the season.
BOX INFO: Two-act, two hour ballet, choreographed by Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen; performed by the Boston Ballet, now through Dec. 31 at ., Boston. Tickets start at $25. Performances are Dec. 21-23,27-29, at 1 and 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 24, at 1 p.m.; Dec. 30,31, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit or call 617-695-6955.