Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The New Year's Eve Nutcracker
And believe it or not, I was glad I went. The Ballet had advertised their New Year's Eve version - the first ever - would have a few twists, and these all proved good fun. The basic idea was to goof around a little with the holiday chestnut (Luciana Voltolini as a snowflake, at left), to make it more of a party; Santa Claus (Robert Kretz) and Drosselmeier's dancing bear (Paul Craig), for instance, kept intruding on various scenes for a quick, scenery-chewing pirouette (which actually proved quite a bit funnier than it sounds). And in general the company members - many of whom are superb physical comedians - were quick with little pratfalls and bits of comic business; the whole thing felt delightfully fizzy (without tipping too far into parody).
Plus Clara and Fritz were played by adults - Joseph Gatti got to ham it up as the bratty Fritz, while Misa Kuranaga took over as Clara. Kuranaga's presence allowed the Ballet to experiment with an idea I've suggested before - that The Nutcracker should climax with Clara "growing up" a bit, and participating in the famous "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" (other ballet companies have toyed with this idea for some time). Here, Kuranaga simply took over the solo, and danced it as beautifully as she has done before. To my mind, this is an opportunity for a more original pas de deux between Clara and her Cavalier (or perhaps even a threesome with Ms. Plum!), but it was still intriguing to see the Ballet at least dip its toe in these more sophisticated emotional waters.
The company made other, fitting gestures toward the New Year - the whole evening ended with blasts of glitter into the audience, for instance, while the orchestra played "Auld Lang Syne" (and the crowd basically went wild). These First Nighters weren't the usual ballet audience, btw - which led to loud gasps and various sounds of awe at the level of the Ballet's dancing. Clearly many of these folks hadn't expected the show to be quite this good. In the lobby at intermission, in fact, the operative word seemed to be "amazing" - I must have heard it half a dozen times. Which kind of made the Ballet's achievement fresh for me, too. I had the feeling I was witnessing the start of a new Boston tradition - which was a great way to kick off the New Year.