All this and more you will find at Pacific Northwest Ballet’s world famous Nutcracker, which is ending a 31-year run this December in Seattle.
And while I have every confidence that PNB will produce a splendid Balanchine-influenced Nutcracker starting in 2015, this rendition is the classic ballet that brought PNB international fame and attention. I first saw this production in 1984, as a beyond-glamourous night out for this then sixteen-year old’s first evening at the ballet. I loved this story, this unique telling of The Nutcracker Prince. I loved the Kingdom of the Grand Pasha substituting for the Land of Sweets, and I especially loved Claire finishing the ballet dancing with her Prince, rather than the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier (whose dream is this anyway, right?).
While the Nutcracker is, at its heart, a romance, don’t be afraid to introduce ballet to your young men here; there is a vigorous battle scene, complete with cannon fire and Calvary, and a scary, but not toooo scary giant Rat King (complete with very large and wiggly tail) that is very recognizable as a Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) creation. The second act is full of acrobatic and humorous creatures, and it gives credit to the artistry of the ballet that I didn’t realize just how many kids were in attendance (boys and girls) when I went until I left, as there wasn’t a peep or restless fidget in the house.
I attended an opening weekend matinee this year, and the magic most definitely lives on. The sets are still as fresh and beautiful as opening night in 1983. The party scene just as joyous, Herr Drosselmeier still deliciously creepy. The nightmare that Claire can’t escape, where the parlor rearranges itself and the Christmas street expands to gigantic proportions (or is Claire shrinking to mouse sized?) brought spontaneous applause from the audience. The beauty of the snow flurries will leave you breathless, if you allow. The Bengal tiger and the peacock are still crowd pleasers, and all in all, it feels like this is a production with a lot of life left in it. By no means will you leave the auditorium thinking this is a presentation on its last legs. I suppose that is the point; to come up with something new and fresh, before this one becomes passé.
But oh, it will be missed. And I encourage you, dear reader, to find time to bask in this magical production, before it is too late.
You won’t regret it.