BWW Review: THE NUTCRACKER at Festival Ballet Providence
The Nutcracker ballet is like a box of chocolates with a chart in the lid. You know what's in it, the question is will it be good. Is it a handcrafted parcel of artisanal chocolates or a dusty box from the drugstore shelf?
The Festival Ballet's 2017 production at the Providence Performing Arts Center is clearly the former, lovingly created and assembled with care and attention to detail that makes this version of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1892 ballet a delicious holiday treat that leaves you looking through the box, hoping for one more taste.
For many people (both young and old), the Nutcracker is often their introduction to ballet and the Festival Ballet's production is ideal for that purpose. Beautifully choreographed by Mihailo Djuric, it welcomes with a first act full of charm and humor, an invitation to enjoy the excellent dancing to follow, making this production ideal for both the first-time ballet goer as well as the seasoned ballet lover.
As the Snow Queen* and King*, Eugenia Zinovieva and Alan Alberto, dazzled with a series of solos and pas de deux, including a number of thrilling lifts.
Also outstanding was crowd-pleasing Jennifer Ricci as the mechanical Columbine* doll in the first act, paired with Asmat Asangul as the Harlequin*, and performing the sinuous "Coffee" (also known as the Arabian dance) with Alan Alberto in the second. The slow sculptural nature of that piece showcased their technical ability and artistry.
Olivia Lucianno's Clara was at home in both worlds the story presents-the 19th-century holiday party where she was a child in her parents' home and the dreamy Kingdom of Sweets, where she was able to show off her finely honed dance skills, as Clara toyed with the ideas of adulthood. Ty Parmenter danced as her Nutcracker*, performing with military precision while wearing the cumbersome Nutcracker mask and then later as her romantic Prince.
Dylan Giles, infuses the role of Herr Drosselmeyer with a warmth and likability-despite the crazy hair and eye patch. This role is sometimes presented as borderline sinister, so it was a welcome delight to see a happy, kind Drosselmeyer.
One of the most impressive feats of this Nutcracker is that with the sheer number of people onstage, including dozens of children, the ballet was still performed seamlessly. Even Archibald, the Yorkie performing in his 18th season as a party goer's pet, pranced across the stage like a pro.
And at a time when many companies seem compelled to reinvent this tale of a tween whose beloved gift comes to life, the Festival Ballet celebrates its 40th anniversary season-and its 20th-anniversary Nutcracker-with a beloved traditional interpretation. Perhaps one of the best things about this Nutcracker-for Rhode Islanders-is that they can claim it as their own. And like a great box of chocolates, it's full of pleasant surprises.
The Nutcracker is just one production on Festival Ballet's diverse 2017-2018 season. Visit festivalballet.com to see the whole schedule (or to sign up for a class).
*Some roles were danced by alternate performers for matinee and evening shows.