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Review: THE NUTCRACKER Brings The Classic Ballet To Life In Toronto This December

Review: THE NUTCRACKER Brings The Classic Ballet To Life In Toronto This December

The National Ballet of Canada's production runs through December 31.

The National Ballet of Canada has brought its beloved production of THE NUTCRACKER back to the stage for the holiday season. Originally created in 1995 and now choreographed (with libretto) by James Kudelka, the production is grand, whimsical, and performed beautifully by all cast members to make for a magical evening at the ballet.

The story follows siblings Marie (Aviva Goad) and Misha (Tom Hulshof) on a picturesque Christmas eve. It opens in their family's barn and the large party taking place there, where Marie receives a nutcracker doll from the eccentric Uncle Nikolai (Ben Rudisin). The constant bickering between the two siblings leads to their parents taking the nutcracker away and sending them to bed under the care of their nurse, Baba (Stephanie Hutchison). Uncle Nikolai returns to give the doll back to Marie, and when the clock strikes midnight both children enter the dreamlike world they'll spend the rest of the night in.

There, they find the Nutcracker doll has come to life in the form of their family's stable boy Peter (Larkin Miller). Alongside the Nutcracker, they adventure through a fight between household pets and pests, and embark on an ice boat to the domain of the Snow Queen (Svetlana Lunkina) and her Icicles (Spencer Hack, Kota Sato) all within the first act. Going from the lively battle between the Nutcracker and the Tsar of the Mice to the elegant Land of Snow makes for a quick change in tempo, but both are performed with great care. As the Snow Queen, Lunkina is regal and performs elegantly alongside Hack and Sato, with the Artists of the National Ballet School supporting as the Snow Maidens.

Act two kicks off in the lavish palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Genevieve Penn Nabity), with the rich reds and golds of the set all focused on the central golden faberge egg from which the Sugar Plum Fairy emerges. From her initial dance through to the procession of performances from a mix of courtiers and guests, the second act moves quickly despite not changing locations.

The entire ensemble cast performs each piece beautifully, from the lush Spanish and Arabian-inspired quartets to the storybook-esque duet between a wolf and sheep. Having dancers of such a wide age range on stage throughout the second act was refreshing, too - with Students of Canada's National Ballet School making adorable appearances as the tiny lambs in a flock (much to the Dec. 10 evening audience's delight), and the slapstick comedy of the chefs. As a Bee (Jenna Savella), Savella performs with strength and equal lightheartedness; the addition of the Artists of the National Ballet of Canada as Flowers and Branches only helps to elevate her.

The bickering siblings Marie and Misha make for the perfect guides through the story as well - both Goad and Hulshof have great chemistry, and are a great entry into the fantastical world of THE NUTCRACKER. It's great to watch their relationship evolve throughout the roughly two-hour performance, as well.

Standout performances from Nabity and Miller are the highlight of this section of the story; the iconic Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is delicate, clean, and intriguing enough to keep audiences hoping that the faberge egg the Fairy resides in will open again for another performance. As a duo, Nabity and Miller play beautifully off one another, and with accompaniment from the large orchestra under conductor David Briskin, Tchaikovsky's iconic Nutcracker Suite feels all-encompassing in the best way.

Aside from the stellar performances from the large cast and orchestra, the design of the production is impressive. Sets (set and costume design by Santo Loquasto) are rich in colour, with plenty of texture, layers, and illusions to make THE NUTCRACKER's fantasy world into a reality. Costumes are equally lavish, and the clear attention to detail in every individual on stage's garments stands out and helps make the world-building even stronger. There's also some incredible puppetry onstage - the horse in the first act is incredibly detailed, and the whimsical performing bears are a fun addition to the rowdy barn party.

In Toronto it's a somewhat well-known tradition to attend a performance of THE NUTCRACKER, over the holidays, and this production makes a strong case for those who've never seen the ballet to take it up. Regardless of age, there's something for anyone - iconic classical music performed live, detailed sets and costumes, great character acting, and some of the most beloved dance numbers presented by an incredibly talented cast.


The National Ballet of Canada's THE NUTCRACKER runs through December 31 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St W, Toronto.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2214916®id=32&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fnational.ballet.ca%2FProductions%2FThe-Nutcracker?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1

Photo Credit: Karolina Kuras

Editor's Note: The opening night cast differed from the performers listed in this article. This article has been updated to the correct performers (as of Dec. 18, 2022).



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