|| Boston Herald
|| November 28, 2010
|| Keith Powers
“The Nutcracker” can be like the annual holiday dinner: basically the same each year, but what you notice are the subtle differences. A new cranberry sauce. Different stuffing. Spicier appetizers.
Such was the case with Boston Ballet’s production of the family classic, which opened Friday evening at the Opera House.
Artistic director Mikko Nissinen’s choreography seems largely the same audience-friendly, well-paced production that it’s always been. And with a few changes in scenery, a couple of new characters, and a general sense of tempo belt-tightening, this year’s “Nutcracker” again serves up its great score and outstanding staging as a feast for all.
Looking for subtle changes in an annual favorite makes for good sport for longtime viewers, but let’s face it, you look forward to it every year, just like the holiday dinner, and it always delivers. Singling out individual dancers and their roles would be arbitrary: The success of a “Nutcracker” depends on the entire company, not only the principals, soloists and corps, but also the vast number of students who make the production come alive.
Musical tempos from the pit were taught, almost terse. Conductor Jonathan McPhee seemed insistent on a vigorous pace to push the action along. That fit the onstage conception entirely, as some of the scenes were simplified, almost condensed. The story line - which can be muddied by heavy-handed symbolic gestures and overacting - benefited enormously.
This showed up largely in the first act, which was a tour de force of storytelling, deftly pushed along not only by Drosselmayer (Sabi Varga) but also by Fiona Wada-Gills’ confident Clara. Act II is always a crowd-pleaser, with its exotic cycle of styles. The climax, especially the Waltz of the Flowers, seemed brilliantly imagined, and especially well-turned by the dancers, flowing seamlessly, like a perfect waltz, with hardly a pause in the action. And Misa Kuranaga placed the elegant Sugar Plum Fairy firmly in every impressionable imagination, making the most of some of Tchaikovsky’s greatest music with stylishly artistic dancing.