BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Is Sparkling Enchantment
THE NUTCRACKER is a sensory paradise. The icily gorgeous stage setting, the stirring dynamics of the orchestra, the beautiful dancers in their perfect element, and the holiday spirit that pulsates in the air all culminate into an experience that pulls us back to a time when we believed in everything magical.
The first act opens with a rousing family scene, complete with a grand set and humorous sibling rivalry. Katelyn May plays the part of Clara with exuberance and beguiling innocence as she begins her magical journey with the gift of the infamous nutcracker. There are some ballet companies that cast a child dancer to play Clara. I prefer the casting of a more mature dancer. The acting and dancing are far more fulfilling, and the petite May is adept and charming in her role. James Gotesky plays magician Drosselmeyer with apt mysticism and drama. He gives Clara a nutcracker doll, a portkey to a magical journey. THE NUTCRACKER is not all fun and games, though. There are rats! William Newton is darkly agile as the King Rat, skulking around Clara's bedroom in all his grotesqueness. Never fear, though- Clara's nutcracker has come to life and is now a stately soldier ready for battle. Aaron Sharratt plays a commanding and assured nutcracker, a hero to Clara.
The Snow Queen and the Nutcracker, who is now a handsome prince, dance with the snowflakes in the Land of Snow, which is arguably the most beautifully haunting aspect of this ballet. Allison Miller is a vision as The Snow Queen, with regal beauty in her dancing and portrayal. Miller and The Snowflakes are breathtaking and sublime to watch, creating a stunning scene onstage, as snow falls softly upon them. The first act ends with a gorgeous, glittering sleigh for Clara, a vision that caused more than a few awe-struck gasps from the audience.
Clara and The Nutcracker continue their journey to the Kingdom of Sweets, a place that glistens with sugar and dreamy confections. The aerodynamics in this scene are fun and captivating, with dancers literally flying through the air in impish glee.
Yuriko Kajiya makes her debut as a principal dancer with Houston ballet, playing the Sugar Plum Fairy. Kajiya is a revelation onstage. Her extensions and balance are beyond impressive and she exhibits extraordinary skill in this coveted role. Kajiya has a crystalline exactness to her dancing that makes her the perfect choice for The Sugar Plum Fairy. Charles-Louis Yoshiyama dances the part of The Prince with dashing strength and provides a worthy counterpart to Kajiya. Their performance of the grand pas de deux later in the production is seamless and pure in its excellence.
Clara's fantasy continues as The Sugarplum Fairy introduces her to the people of her kingdom. We are treated to a an array of international dances; Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russian. The dance of the Mirlitons is sweet and delightful. All of the dancers are energetic and exciting, but Jessica Collado and James Gotesky are standouts as the Arabian dancers. The Russian dance is performed by the buoyant Derek Dunn and he delivers with aplomb. Clara is also entertained by a dance with Madame Bonbonaire and her clowns. This is one of many highlights of the show and the young dancers play their part with charm and humor.
The Waltz of flowers is a beautiful reminder of the hopefulness of spring, and lead flowers Katharine Precourt and Linnar Looris are stunning in their performance. It must be noted that the costumes here are especially alluring with their deep tones of magenta, dark green, and ruby red. The Waltz of Flowers is carried out by a group of exquisite dancers, creating a heartbreakingly beautiful moment onstage.
The orchestra, led by Craig Kier, is an experience unto itself. The musicians play with poignancy and technical mastery. The string section during The Arabian Dance was especially pleasing to the ear. Kier conducts with a keen ear for dynamics and this production is boosted ever higher by this orchestra.
Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER is pure enchantment and Stanton Welch leads a company filled with a perfect concoction of formidable technique and elegant artistry. Treat yourself this holiday season and get your tickets soon!
For tickets to THE NUTCRACKER, go to: http://www.houstonballet.org/tesstkt/
THE NUTCRACKER runs through December 28.
Photos courtesy of Houston Ballet