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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


George Balanchine's
The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is a fairy-tale ballet based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Alexandre Dumas père's adaptation of the story was set to music by composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1891. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same.

Set in Nuremberg, Germany, The Nutcracker begins in the elegant Stahlbaum home on Christmas Eve, where the family is hosting their annual lavish Christmas party for family and friends. Amidst the festive music, the Stahlbaum children, Clara (Marie) and Fritz, dance and play as they welcome their friends. Their godfather, Heir Drosselmeyer, arrives with two life-size dolls. They are the delight of the party, each taking a turn to dance. He also has brought with him his handsome young nephew, with whom Marie seems smitten. Drosselmeyer's Christmas gift to Marie is a beautiful Nutcracker that becomes the hit of the party. Marie is heartbroken when Fritz jealously breaks it, but Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air. Later, when the guests have left, Marie, worried about her beloved Nutcracker, sneaks back to the tree to check on him, falling asleep with him in her arms.

As the clock strikes midnight, strange things begin to happen. Marie begins to shrink as her beautiful Christmas tree grows high above her. The toys around the tree come to life while the room fills with an army of mice, led by the fierce Mouse King. As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. The Mouse King corners the Nutcracker and battles him one-on-one. The Nutcracker and his army are captured by the mice and their King. Marie makes a final daring charge, throwing her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square on the head. The Mouse King drops to the floor and the mice run away, carrying off their leader's lifeless body.

The Nutcracker turns into a Prince, and he takes Marie on a journey to the Land of Snow, which is an enchanted forest wonderland where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes. He then escorts Marie to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells the Sugar Plum Fairy about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances. As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her handsome Cavalier dance a beautiful pas de deux. Marie and her Prince bid their new friends farewell and sail off on their magic sleigh. Marie then awakens from this beautiful dream to find herself by the Christmas tree with her beloved Nutcracker safely in her arms.

The Miami City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker features scores of children in a beautiful setting perfect for the holidays. The music, surprisingly, is recorded rather than live, and some details of the set are less lavishly detailed than in other productions. The first act party scene seems to drag tiresomely as we await for the magic to begin.

Mary Carmen Catoya as The Sugar Plum Fairy dances better when partnered by her Cavalier, Renato Penteado, than as a soloist. When alone she sometimes seems winded and not anchored in her center of gravity. Conversely, Penteado dances better as a soloist than when partnering her, as he tends to lean forward too much, and over-handles her waist on her turns. As a soloist, his lines are strong and masculine.

Jennifer Lauren as a Marzipan Shepherdess has an elegant quality in her carriage that is lovely to watch. Alex Wong as one of the Candy Canes turns in an entertainingly athletic performance. Certainly, Mother Commedia and her Polichinelles are imaginatively staged, and The Snowflakes, Dew Drops and Angels are all enjoyable. On the night attended, Daniel Sarabia had problems landing smoothly out of his turns as Hot Chocolate, and Allynne Noelle turned in the most uninspired performance of the evening as Coffee.

If you love children, this is the production for you. This may not be the production for you if you are a purist, however. Canned music aside, the age of the dancer playing Marie is just wrong. She is supposed to be a young girl on the verge of becoming a young woman. The Nutcracker turned Prince is her image of a pure romantic love inspired by the meeting of Heir Drosselmeyer's nephew. Marie is generally played by a dancer who can portray around the age of 13-15 on stage. The Prince should appear slightly older at 16-18. This production uses a Marie and Prince that look to be both 8-11 years old. While Evan Rapaport shows great promise as The Prince, Marianna Kellogg seems too young to make a determination of her dancing ability. The romantic nature of the story behind the ballet suffers because it can not be played out due of the age of the dancers. It is a disappointing twist on the intent of the piece.

This Miami City Ballet production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker appeared at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in the Ziff Opera House from December 18-23, 2008. The Arsht Center is located in Miami, Florida. For information or to purchase tickets for the many diverse offering of the Arsht Center, you may contact them at 305-949-6072, or visit online at www.arschtcenter.org.

The Miami City Ballet (MCB) is among the largest ballet companies in the United States, with 55 dancers, 11,000 season subscribers, and an active repertoire of 88 ballets (including 9 world premieres). The company boasts that more than 25,000 people view their production of George Balanchine's i>The Nutcracker each year.

Founding Artistic Director, Edward Villella's vision and style for the MCB are based on the neoclassical 20th-century aesthetic established by choreographer George Balanchine. In 1997, Mr. Villella received the National Medal of Arts in 1997, was named a Kennedy Center Honoree and inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Miami City Ballet performs extensively in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach Counties; as well as Collier County, where MCB is presented as the resident ballet company at the Naples Philharmonic Center. The company has also toured all over the United States, dancing in more than 100 U.S. cities. And internationally, MCB has performed in Europe, Great Britain, South America, Central America, and Israel. For more information on the diverse offerings of MCB, you may reach them on line at www.miamicityballet.org.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is made possible by the public support of the Miami-Dade County Major and the Board of County Commissioners, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. It also receives generous support from private and corporate contributions to the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami through it's Membership Program, the City=2 0of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, the Dade Community Foundation, The MAP-Fund, the Sate of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Crew:
Artistic Director: Edward Villella
Music Advisor: Francisco Rennó
Production and Lighting Designer: John D. Hall
Costume Designer & Director: Haydee Morales
Principal Ballet Mistress: Roma Sosenko
Stage Manager: Nicole M. Mitchell


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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