Parent Review: 'The Nutcracker' at Evergreen City Ballet
Ross Freeman as Soldier Doll
Photo: Chris Clark Photography
“Beautiful, gorgeous, amazing talent in every scene!” Those were the words of my 3rd grader after the last dancer pirouetted off the stage of the Evergreen City Ballet’s Nutcracker performance.
Without the hassle of traffic and parking, the damage of expensive tickets, and the fear of having seats that are too far away or behind the tallest person in the theater, this performance of The Nutcracker is refreshingly easy, even before the curtain rises.
Evergreen City Ballet has been performing The Nutcracker for 22 years, but nothing about the dancing, sets or costumes says “tired.” My 8-year-old daughter and I were impressed by the exceptionally talented dancers. The love of dance shared by directors' Gillmer Duran and Julie Tobiason shines through in this performance.
The ballet begins with a traditional Victorian parlor scene, with plenty of velvet, taffeta and lace, toys, horns, and of course a Christmas tree. It is here that we meet Herr Drosselmeyer, played by guest artist Warren Woo. Woo gives a fresh interpretation of a character who often becomes just a caricature. He portrays him as the crazy uncle that he is. He preens and dazzles with his knowing magical swagger. He isn’t frightening but intriguing.
Another sweet surprise comes in the Battle scene. This always seems to be the favorite scene of little ones, who might be found yawning during the Sugar Plum fairy scenes. I won’t spoil it, but flashlights, excellent sound effects, and the crashing of metal swords add to the excitement. Humor is wisely and expertly used to smooth over the death scenes that could otherwise be confusing and scary.
Soon after the battle, the curtain rises to reveal a beautiful scene that causes the audience to collectively oooh and ahhhh. A full moon glows over a mist that filters across the stage. Dancers in glittering tutus leap through sparkling snow that continues to fall throughout the entire dance. This was truly a magical Nutcracker moment. Looking over at my daughter, she was right there on the stage with the dancers, lost in a world of imagination.
After an intermission with plenty of time for a bathroom and snack break, and an opportunity to purchase nutcrackers and sparkly treasures to benefit the Evergreen City Ballet, the curtain rose on Act II.
The color palette of the lighting blended well with the costumes, giving them a vintage feel throughout Act II. The colors peach and mint, teal and crème, scarlet and black, created scrumptious color changes for each dance. It is here that I will add a new tidbit of knowledge that I learned at this ballet performance. The costumes are cleaned, year after year, with vodka. Now that is a lot of vodka!
As the dancers performed the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Austria, and Russian dances, it struck me as a lesson sandwiched into the ballet. This was a celebration of different cultures. The uniqueness of each culture’s music, costumes, and style of dance, was showcased in a lovely display of the celebration of diversity.
As Clara’s bed magically moved across the stage (how did that bed move across the stage?) taking her back to her home, we were transported back to the cold and wet of an evening in the Northwest. But for a few hours we were treated to the impressive dancing of the students of the Evergreen City Ballet. It was hard to believe that they were high school students and younger, with the exception of the guest artists. As a seasoned Nutcracker audience member, this was one of the best Nutcrackers I have seen.
The Nutcracker will be performed in a number of different Eastside locations, until Dec. 18th.
Evergreen City Ballet also offers special one-hour performances of The Nutcracker, meant for younger children. Please don’t overestimate your child’s attention span. In the audience with us that night, there were several children who talked and cried throughout the entire performance. This one –hour performance is an excellent alternative, and you can look forward to enjoying the full performance in the coming years.