First, I admit it. I love the ballet.
Second, I love a classic as much as the next person. Maybe more.
Tchaikovsky-The Nutcracker Ballet
Third, I love a new twist on an old favorite. Shaking things up is almost always a good thing. Especially in the arts!
Fourth, I love rousing live music from a top notch orchestra.
Fifth, I am a sucker for the holiday season and the spectacle of falling snow.
Put all these things together, and they elicit the Pacific Northwest
Ballet Company's Nutcracker, what else? Ma oui, mesdames et messieurs!
(I have no idea why I just went all les français.
It just seemed appropriate!)
The Pacific Northwest’s is an entirely different Nutcracker than any you’ve ever seen.
And that’s because one of the company’s directors, Kent Stowell, had a brainstorm back in the 1980s. He thought a new, updated version of the Christmas classic would be nice.
As I noted in an earlier post, Kent Stowell invited famed children’s book author and illustrator, Maurice Sendak, to collaborate on a new version of the Nutcracker. Fortunately, although his initial impulse was to say no, Sendak agreed. The ballet that I enjoyed yesterday in Seattle is the carefully nurtured product of that enlightened collaboration.
Thanks to technology and the www, we can hear the late Sendak himself and see him at work.
Thank goodness they did it, for I’ve been to a few Nutcrackers (indeed I have been drug to many to watch friend’s children perform as mice and other nonsense) in my lifetime, but never one as charming as this.
I could give you the whole rundown, but you don’t need that and neither do I. So let’s jump right to my favorite parts of the Seattle spectacle.
First, let’s skip the turkey and talk all peacock. Personally, I never have liked turkey.
The illustration above is courtesy of the PNB’s website. No credit is given for the artist, but I guess we can take credit all the way back to the early 1980s and give it to Maurice Sendak, who originally envisioned all of this bravado on display at McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center for the next month.
There are hundreds of things to love about the Stowell-Sendak Nutcracker. Maybe more.
But, personally, I could not get enough of this joyous peacock who arrives on stage in her own gilded cage.
Then the gorgeous bird struts her stuff and it is a joy to behold.
The choreography, the costume, the music, the beautiful, skilled ballerina–it all comes together in this all too brief moment of peacock madness.
If you ever wondered what it is like to dance the part of the gorgeous peacock in the Sendak Nutcracker, and come on, who hasn’t?, then watch this:
But, as I often do, I have gotten way, way ahead of myself.
This light-hearted, magical stage front awaits you upon your arrival in the theater. While the orchestra tunes up and all the little sugarplums and sourpusses in the audience take their bumper chairs, your eyes and mind have much to enjoy in admiring this warm Sendak illustration. It literally sets the stage for the magical moments ahead of you. The stagefront makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, like you are sitting on your grandmother’s knee and she is about to read you one of your favorite stories with fantastically attractive illustrations for you to admire.
The curtain(s) rises and you are confronted by this whimsical nutcracker’s face and unending teeth.
Another curtain rises and we see the young protagonist of the story, our fraulein, asleep, about to have some wild REM sleep! Out come the mice, the tale’s “narrator” (he is silent, but he still narrates), and the fantastic dreaming begins.
It would take pages for me to go through the chronology and details of the ballet, and I don’t want to write for pages. So, here are some of the scenes from the dream sequence. I present them out of order, the way I would like to dream it.
Three dances in harlequin costumes present a lively interlude. I loved this part!
I’ll be back with another post on this masterpiece soon. But for now, run, don’t walk, to the Seattle Center to see this ephemeral delight while you still can.
May we all have visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads this next month!