BWW Review: Toronto International Ballet Theatre's THE NUTCRACKER Proves That What Glitters Can Be Golden

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BWW Review: Toronto International Ballet Theatre's THE NUTCRACKER Proves That What Glitters Can Be Golden

In the Toronto International Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet's (TIBT) production of THE NUTCRACKER, choreographer and artistic director Tatiana Stepanova takes a traditional approach to the beloved story that proves it doesn't need a modern-day refresh to appeal to a modern audience. From the glittering, gorgeous costumes (Shannon Khan) to lighting (Simon Rossiter, also credited with production management) that utilizes unique elements to stunning success, added to the dance components, this is a Nutcracker that embraces its history, and in turn, is a lovely holiday-themed production.

THE NUTCRACKER follows young Clara (Caitlin Winkler, who nails her performance in the ball dance number as well as mime in acted scenes) through a magical journey after a beloved Christmas gift - a nutcracker doll - is broken. As she sleeps, the magician Drosselmeyer (Edward Tracz) shrinks her down to the size of a toy, and when she wakes, she finds herself in the midst of a battle between toy soldiers and the Mouse King's (Domenic Who) army. Her Nutcracker (Noy Vanir) leads the toys to a victory, and then transforms into a Nutcracker Prince (Vyacheslav Lopatin), who is joined by an older Clara (Anastasia Stashkevich) for their journey into the Snow Queen's (Harumi Kameda) world and the Land of Sweets.

Bolshoi Ballet performers Lopatin and Stashkevich live up to their reputation in a series of dances, leading up to their final showstopping pas de deux. Lopatin makes the demanding work of supporting numerous lifts and turns seem simple, and in moments where he takes the stage solo achieves great height with even greater control in a series of tight turns and leaps. Stashkevich is a true prima ballerina, all grace and fluidity, with wonderful pointe work and an unmistakeable charm that radiates from her portrayal of the kind, loving Clara.

Highlights of this production include the group pieces, especially the ball, the Snow Queen adagio, and the waltz of the flowers. Stepanova's choreography works wonderfully in these busier pieces, and the large ensembles - of youth and adult dancers - maintain great synchronicity. Kameda's Snow Queen is as light and airy as the element she represents, and as the leader of the floral waltz ensemble, Riho Ogata delivers a grounded, gorgeous performance.

This performance might be rooted in tradition, but it utilizes modern components to its benefit. Mice costumes incorporate LED lights to give them an extra-eerie look, and the use of refracted light from disco balls suspended out of sight helps to convey the role of magic in the story. Speakers and pre-recorded music does its job, but the power of Tchaikovsky's iconic score loses some effect without the human touch of a live orchestra and conductor.

THE NUTCRACKER is a production that stays true to its origins while also incorporating modern elements. The final result is a great spectacle, and even with several different productions of the ballet classic happening in such a short timeframe, this one makes a name for itself with its gorgeous dance and glittering costume design.

The Toronto International Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER ran November 15 at Meridian Hall, 1 Front St E, Toronto, ON.

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Photo courtesy of Toronto International Ballet Theatre

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From This Author Isabella Perrone