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BWW Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER, David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln

Megan Fairchild, George Balanchine, Sophia Thompoulos, Maria Kowroski, Tyler Angle, Lincoln Center, Daniel Ulbricht star in the festive spectacular

BWW Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER, David H. Koch Theater, LincolnBWW Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER, David H. Koch Theater, LincolnWith London and the UK's plans for a nostalgic annual revival of The Nutcracker scuppered, fortunately Marquee TV is supplying audiences with access to New York City Ballet's production, choreographed by George Balanchine, until January 3. This particular performance is from the 2019 run.

Having first premiered in 1954, the set and costuming certainly evokes a bygone era but still pleases in it's simplistic charm. For UK audiences, the biggest shift will come in casting.

Clara ("Marie" here) is danced by a student of the school, as is her Nutcracker. Indeed the NYCB company proper don't get much of a look in until the dance of the Snowflakes and Act II making this an easily identifiable production from other familiar takes.

Sophia Thompoulos's Marie is every inch the charming and neat party child, who, despite her tiny presence is clear in her mime and precise with her dancing. She and her Nutcracker/Nephew Kai Misra-Stone are sincere in their storytelling, carrying the story from the with engaging character from the party scene to the winter wonderland of snowflakes. Those familiar with Sir Peter Wright's production will also appreciate the elegant Christmas tree that grows nearly 30 feet in front of our eyes.

Perhaps one disappointment is the absence of an Act I pas de deux. Without an adult Clara and Nephew, "Marie" is left to simply drift off on a bed that gently tours the stage to Tchaikovsky's captivating score. It feels a waste and a lost opportunity as the cartoonish backdrop for the dance of the Snowflakes emerges.

These are some premium Snowflakes with glittering and elaborate tiaras and sparkling costumes who must negotiate a considerable snow storm as well as Balanchine's fiendish choreography. The ambitious patterns and fast pace demanded of the sixteen dancers amidst the snow provides an additional obstacle and makes for a spectacular end to the act.

After an opening dominated by child characters, Act II gives the stars of NYCB an opportunity to shine.

The Waltz of the Flowers is a worthy centrepiece. In garish pinks, in what must be considered iconic costumes by Karinska, the flowers fill the stage in wafty, multi-layered net skirts that move and sweep beautifully to the music.

Balanchine's choreography is demanding and requires high energy as well as discipline to retain the tight formations. Megan Fairchild is youthful and fleet-footed as Dewdrop, able to deliver warp-speed pirouettes and chaînés before holding a picture perfect arabesque.

Those new to Balanchine's interpretation won't be familiar with the alternative vignettes seen here. Daniel Ulbricht leads a lively troupe of Candy Canes in what must be the ultimate cardio workout complete with stripy hoops. The section cumulates in Ulbrecht making light work of repeatedly jumping through his own.

The jewel in the crown of course is the central partnership between the Sugarplum Fairy, Maria Kowroski, and her Cavalier Tyler Angle. They are the perfectly, regal, imperial pair. Balachine's choreography is less serene, more showy than that seen is Sir Peter Wright's version but it is performed with impressive moments of control, filling out this, the high point of the score.

Balanchine's take on the Nutcracker provides a welcome alternative to those familiar to UK audiences. It may be slightly more geared towards delighting children rather than adults but with Ronald Bates' original designs evoking the era it premiered, this is some comforting nostalgia which some consider a "gold standard Nutcracker".

New York City Ballet's Nutcracker is available on Marquee Arts TV until 3 January

Photo credit: Erin Baiano


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