|| The Patriot Ledger
|| November 25, 2012
|| Iris Fanger
BOSTON — The Boston Ballet unveiled a sumptuous new production of “The Nutcracker” this past weekend and despite the changes, the Christmas tree does grow, the snow does fall, and the orchestra still plays Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Otherwise, the $2.5 million worth of sets and costumes, designed by theatrical wizard, Robert Perdziola, and constructed mostly at Mystic Scenic Studio in Norwood and the costume shop at Boston Ballet headquarters, are the most elaborate that the company has presented. To comprehend the undertaking, just imagine a tutu for the Sugar Plum Fairy, set with some 3,600 sparkling Swarovski stones, and a 12-layered tulle skirt, each individually-dyed. Now multiply by 150 costumes each performance and add the ever-moving scenery.
Under the direction of Mikko Nissinen, the story of the young girl, Clara, leaving home on her miraculous journey into the night, has been tightened. Drosselmeier, who brings the gift of a Nutcracker doll to the party, is the chief performer of a theater placed in the center of the town square. He figures largely throughout the ballet, accompanying Clara for both acts. However, Clara must be sorry to give up the Nutcracker Prince when he leaves her for the grown up ballerina in Act II. At the end, Clara wakes from the dream, but happily finds out that it was real.
The dancers of the company, plus the dozens of children from the Boston Ballet School, have been carefully rehearsed for the rigors of the six-week run. Ten different ballerinas will rotate as the Sugar Plum Fairy, along with a changing cast for the other characters. At the Saturday matinee, Lia Cirio, made an elegant Sugar Plum Fairy, steady on her pointes and pulled up in posture. As one of the most accomplished actresses in the company, she gave Clara the model of a gracious,welcoming woman, in charge of a large and varied troupe. Lasha Khozashvili, of the long legs and effortless manner, transformed from the antic Nutcracker Prince into an assured Cavalier for the second act Pas de Deux, particularly effective in his mime solo when he describes his miraculous rescue from the Rat King. Nelson Madrigal who usually performs as the handsome Prince made a charming turn-around as Drosselmeier, the vaudevillian magician, combining a sense of humor with spot-on timing. Braintree resident, Sabi Varga, who appeared as Clara’s father in the Party scene, also takes the role of Drosselmeier at other performances. His wife, Melanie Atkins, is ballet mistress for the large cast of children.
Emily Hoff as Clara delivered an amazingly proficient portrait of both a young girl thrilled by her adventure and a talented dancer, effortlessly throwing off a double pirouette. The young Troy Santulli as her brother, Fritz, capably performed a solo in the Party Scene, an equal-opportunity moment for the boys.
In terms of the changes to the choreography, Nissinen is most successful with the Waltz of the Flowers, blocked on the diagonal and amplified by two more soloists plus a corps de ballet to back up the Dew Drop Fairy. Perdziola gave the Flowers each a multi-layered, floaty tulle costume in shades of pink that twirls around them,to further the illusion of blowing in the wind. However, one might wish thatNissinen had not thrown out the old Battle Scene. His replacement is too stilted for a generation of children growing up on the violence of the television super-heroes.
Back stage, the stars of this show include Charles Heightchew, Manager of Costumes and Wardrobe; Benjamin Phillips, the Technical Director and Production Manager who makes thesets move and the lights turn on; longtime Music Director and Principal Conductor, Jonathan McPhee; and dramaturge, Melia Bensussen who helped detail the story line.
Perdziola’s settings that open out in “iris” effect rather than rising up to reveal the scenic changes are as lovely as the scenery by Helen Pond and Herbert Senn that they replace.The frescoed wall of figures from ballet history that arches over the Act II ballroom is just one more treasure to remember in a production filled with visual delights.