Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: (Dance / Montreal) The Nutcracker

(photo by John Hall)
They Should have Called This “The Nutcracker’s Friends”
by Aleksandra Koplik, Senior Contributor

Perhaps I am not the best person to critique this performance as The Nutcracker is my all-time favourite winter ballet and holiday activity, so I take it very close to heart when a classical piece is done differently.

First off, I have to mention the incredible design that was created on and for the stage by Peter Home. It was absolutely breathtaking. Everything from the owl clock to the growing Christmas tree, to Clara’s dream world was done beautifully. The locations and acts were carefully layered with thin themed veils and the lighting (by Nicholas Cernovitch) really did its work in making them transparent or opaque.

I have serious qualms with the actual performance though. I understand that this production was catered to children, and I found that the artistic director (Gradimir Pankov) really adjusted the ballet to the mind frame of a child, but this was more like a costume performance with elements of ballet. I’ve watched many versions of the The Nutcracker from the Mariinsky, Berlin, Paris, London and New York productions. Of course, some things will always change in terms of décor and style( and that’s what makes it fun) but in this case I found the choice to cast a little girl (Rebecca Chichon) took away from the performance, usually this role is given to mature ballerinas with experience. The Nutcracker (Stephen Satterfield) had such potential, but he too was cast off to the couch for the majority of the show. At one point he holds her, lifting her up slightly, as they run on stage. This is done because she physically cannot keep up with a boy who’s  twice her age and size. The second act is taken over by the magical creatures of the Land of Snow and the annoying and completely out-of-place clown that represents the King of Candyland (Jocelyn Paradis), while Clara and the Nutcracker Prince sit on the plump sofa and watch. I was so disappointed at the end of Act 2, when the Pas de Deux wasn’t performed by Clara and the Nutcracker, but by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. I found the costume concept (by Francois Barbeau) to be very colourful, at times even a little too much. It really gave a Disney Broadway show feel. This is most noticeable at the beginning, at the Christmas party. The colours were lovely but it just seemed like there was too much going on with mixes of oranges, reds, greens, purples and blues.

All in all, if you want to take your kids to watch a lovely Christmas performance with fantastic, live, classical music (conducted by Allan Lewis and Oleksiy Baklan), then it’s a great option for a family night out. If you enjoy ballet and take it seriously, go only for the sake of getting in the holiday spirit, because there is very little ballet, most of it is amateur and you’ll enjoy the colours and vibrance of the performance.

December 11 - 30

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