’Tis the season for Nutcrackers, and the Bay Area has many to choose from. If you want something refreshingly different that retains all the beauty and wonder of the tradition, make it to the Nutcracker produced by Ballet San Jose. Dennis Nahat has kept the traditional story of a young girl and her nutcracker Prince, and Tchaikovsky’s beloved music, but reimagined the scenario as she travels with him in a magical dream world. The result is a delightfully original staging.
Act 1 is a much more extended version of the family Christmas party, with a richness of detail in the staging that is fun to watch. Maria (Junna Ige) and her family have invited other families for a Christmas Eve dinner, and Herr Drosselmeyer (Raymond Rodriguez) arrives to hand out gifts and create some party fun. Rodriguez is a standout, as are Sarah Stein and Akira Takahashi as Grandma and Grandpa, and Shaina Leibson as the Maid, but everyone joins in the comical antics.
When Maria begins dreaming, the real fun begins, including the battle between the Mouse King (Willie Anderson) and the Nutcracker (Maykel Solas), his transformation into Prince Alexis, and their journey into a spectacular land of snow. Ige is lovely as Maria, a sweet ingénue with exceptional technique, and her duets with the handsome and terrifically talented Solas are a treat.
Act 2 takes them through Spain, Arabia, Japan and finally Russia, with exotic marvels for each land. Lead Harem Girl Alexsandra Meijer is especially good. Tsar (Rudy Candia) and Tsarina (Beth Ann Namey) host a ball for the honored travelers, leading to a fabulous waltz for the school company—the kind of number that makes every little girl in the audience dream of becoming a ballerina, full of elegant lifts and flowing satin gowns. The dance also shows off the depth of talent and skill in the school company, which is considerable, displaying professionalism and expert training. The ball is punctuated by more dancing from Maria and Alexis, and the requisite pas de deux by the Tsar and Tsarina, all of whom are superb dancers, quite up to the challenges of Nahat’s stylish and graceful choreography. Statuesque Namey is particularly memorable, with outstanding pointe work and impeccable lines.
The second act does feel somewhat long, and the reprise of the ball dance a little redundant, but the closing scene is suitably charming.
The sets by David Guthrie are truly spectacular, generating appreciative applause with each reveal, and include the best snowstorm ever. Kenneth Keith’s lighting nicely complements the stunning sets, often enhancing the beauty of the costumes.
Through Dec. 26
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
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