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Rediscovering your inner child

Broward Center for the Performing Arts
12/14/2012 -  & December 15, 16, 2012
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
The Miami City Ballet, Natalia Garcia (Marie), Henry Galban (Prince), Ronny Baseman (Fritz), Renan Cerdeiro (Soldier/Candy Cane), Jeanette Delgado (Dew Drop), Patricia Delgado (Sugar Plum Fairy), Sara Esty (Spanish Solo), Carlos Miguel Guerra (Cavalier), Jennifer Lauren (Marzipan), Callie Manning (Frau Stahlbaum/Arabian Coffee), Neil Marshall (Mother Comedia), Kleber Rebello (Chinese Tea), Reyneris Reyes (Dr. Stahlbaum/Spanish Solo), Chase Swatosh (Mouse King), Yann Trividic (Drosselmeier), Corps de Ballet, Principals, Soloists, Company Apprentices, School Apprentices
George Balanchine (Choreography), John Hall (Scenic Design), Haydée Morales (Costume Design), John Hall (Lighting Design)

(© Courtesy of MCB)

At Thanksgiving time I watched, for the first time in many years, Disney's Fantasia. Deems Taylor introduced the different selections and in his commentary about The Nutcracker said, “... and nobody performs it nowadays.” Yeah, I did start to laugh, then remembered that Fantasia was released in 1940. I was inspired to do a little research on Wikipedia which left me eager to see the ballet again. What could it be that has led this to become now, the most often performed ballet in the United States?

I attended the opening night performance. There were a lot of kids but they didn't come close to the number of oldsters without a sprout in tow. You can't just say that The Nutcracker is done because it is something to take children to at holiday time. It might be trite but is undoubtedly true that The Nutcracker does give us the chance to remember a time when we really did believe in the unbelievable. I am pretty sure that most people under ten don't think for a second that we are seeing Marie's dream. If they did, it would destroy the effect, sort of like if you found out that Dorothy's house never really did get carried off to Munchkinland.

As everyone knows, ballet stories are pretty lightweight, none more so than The Nutcracker. And anyone who has seen this ballet in other variations knows that the choreography can be pretty darned dull in the first act, sometimes even in the second. Still, the clarity of Balanchine's work gives the first act party scenes more drama than one might expect, the second is simply thrilling. This interpretation is now almost sixty years old, yet it still feels unusually fresh.

A ballet enthusiast who poopoos attending this Nutcracker once in a while does him or herself a disservice. There is a lot to learn here about getting it right. It is easy to stun with the less familiar. The Miami City Ballet approaches this overly performed work with the same commitment and enthusiasm that it has for the Balanchine masterworks or a world premiere.

One of the most evident things about the performances success is the acting; yes, the acting of the kids. Natalia Garcia's Marie gets things off to a perfect start when she tells the audience about the beautiful Christmas tree she sees, not to her parents' awareness, being trimmed. Ronny Baseman is a perfect nasty little brother who seems to revel in the fact that he can be the center of mischief because the festivities are taking place in his home. And Henry Galbran is solid in the essential role of the nephew of a family friend who will eventually become Marie's prince. His second act reenacting of the mouse battle is faultlessly executed with complete comprehension. The adults in the first act don't get as much opportunity to have much impact except for Galbran's uncle, Drosselmeier, played by the thrilling Yann Trividic. Danced? Of course, but this is a performer who always goes way beyond the limits of the choreography and creates a vivid character.

At intermission I overheard a ballet going novice remark how little “dancing” there was until the “Waltz of the Snowflakes”. This is where Miami City Ballet once again underscores that a company's greatness is reflected in the quality of its corps. I am certain that this new balletgoer was not feeling deprived of dance once the second act got underway.

All of the company members in the main roles were startling and naturally the biggest applause went to the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Cavalier, Dewdrop and Candy Cane of Patricia Delgado, Carlos Miguel Guerra, Jeanette Delgado and Renan Cerdeiro respectively. But the less flashy roles of the female Spanish dancer given by Sara Esty and the precision of Jennifer Lauren's Marzipan were particularly instrumental in making the evening memorable. The personality of Callie Manning doing the Arab Dance made one realize just how exciting Balanchine is when others working with the same material can be so dull. Again, the corps and the very young dancers worked only with authority.

And let's not forget Tchaikovsky. Even using recorded music, it is thrilling to listen to this music for even the three hundredth time. More than the choreographer and the librettist, this ballet belongs to him. What a joy it must be for theatre artists to create using a score that is arguably ballet's greatest!

This program will be presented in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center for eight performances December 20-24. If you love theatre, give yourself a Christmas gift. It rarely gets more fun.

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Jeff Haller



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