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Bonnie Rosenstock
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NYTB’s The Nutcracker A Delight for Children of All Ages

by Bonnie Rosenstock
December 13, 2015
Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
The Sunday, December 13, 11 a.m. performance of New York Theatre Ballet’s fifth annual The Nutcracker, held in the cozy 361-seat Florence Gould Hall, was filled to capacity. Adults had at least one youngster in tow, and there was no dearth of princesses and ballerinas. The two little girls sitting next to me (that is, occasionally sitting) were dressed in frilly outfits topped with glittery crowns. The older one spent part of the hour-long performance gleefully conducting the Tchaikovsky score with her magic wand. There seemed to be almost as much action, movement and sound emanating from the audience as there was up on the stage. And that seemed quite appropriate for NYTB’s delightful retelling of its popular holiday ballet.

The show, which sold out its seven-performance run December 11-13, was created by long-time NYTB choreographer Keith Michael. Set in Art Nouveau-style on Christmas Eve circa 1907, it takes place in the living room of Dr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum’s stately mansion in which a clock figures prominently. Godfather Drosselmeyer - played with verve by Mitchell Kilby in black tails, hair askew with big round owlish glasses and a cheery disposition - introduced his nephew Nathaniel to the Stahlbaums and their daughter Marie. Nathaniel is also the Crown Prince of a magical kingdom to which he yearns to return. Drosselmeyer produced a wooden Nutcracker (the enchanted Nathaniel) from behind a small door and presented it to Marie. She returned to the living room later that night with her Nutcracker, fell asleep and the fantastical adventure began.

Queen Mouserinks (the commanding Eliza Sherlock) and her band of mice (the talented children from Ballet School NY) appear and attempt to devour the savory doll, but Marie saves him. Because of her bravery and love, he comes alive, and the two join forces in a rousing battle to defeat them. After victory, the two embark on a journey through the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets. They encounter the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier and a host of other alluring entertainers.

In some productions, Marie (sometimes known as Clara or Masha) is played by a child, who may have a marginal role. But NYTB opted for a company member, Alexis Branagan, to portray her as an exuberant young adult and perform engaging duets with the dashing Stephen Campanella (Nathaniel and the Nutcracker/Crown Prince). Dr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum (Joshua Andino-Nieto and Amanda Treiber) did double duty as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. The accomplished duo captured the lovely, lyrical choreography. The Snowflakes and Frost dancers were smooth and shimmery, the Chinese Chopsticks (Giulia Faria and Sherlock) were masterful in both dancing and handling those epic, clacking chopsticks and the Waltz of the Flowers trio (Carmella Lauer, Ayaka Kamei and Faria) was winsome, to highlight a few of the outstanding divertissements pairings.

The set design by Gillian Bradshaw-Smith was cheery as well as functional, featuring the all-essential clock with movable hands and places for people to hide and pop out of. The costumes by Metropolitan Opera’s Resident Costume Designer Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan were inventive and colorful, from polka-dot-dressed mice with magnificent tails; Marzipan Shepherdess and sheep in ruffled white Little Bo-peep outfits (and one pink outfit for the youngest) carrying sheep masks and shepherd’s crooks; the delicate petal-like overlay to the Waltz of the Flower dresses; to the vivid colors of the ebullient young trio of Russian Boules, who deftly manipulated red bouncy gym balls—they threw themselves on them, bounced on them, threw them up in the air, caught them and had a marvelous time. As did the spectators, whether they brought children or used them as an excuse to experience The Nutcracker magic.

New York Theatre Ballet, 131 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003. (212) 679-0401. For full calendar of events and Ballet School NY classes, visit www.nytb.org.

Photo © & courtesy of Julieta Cervantes

Photo © & courtesy of Julieta Cervantes

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