Nutcracker mi­nus the men­ace

The Dominion Post - - Culture -

The Nutcracker, Royal New Zealand Bal­let Opera House, Oc­to­ber 31 Re­viewed by Ann Hunt

Chore­og­ra­pher Val Ca­ni­paroli based this pro­duc­tion on E T A Hoff­mann’s The Story Of The Nutcracker And The Mouse King. It fol­lows the tra­di­tional path with some twists.

The two-act bal­let is set on Christ­mas Eve in the Stahlbaums’ home. Marie dreams that her Nutcracker doll turns into a hand­some prince, de­feats the fierce Mouse King and takes her on a mag­i­cal jour­ney through a snowy for­est to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

This fam­ily bal­let is very at­trac­tive to look at and well danced over­all. In Welling­ton there is the con­sid­er­able bonus of the beau­ti­ful play­ing of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score by the New Zealand Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, sen­si­tively con­ducted by Hamish McKe­ich, ac­com­pa­nied by the lilt­ing women’s voices from the Or­pheus Choir con­ducted by Brent Stew­art.

But on other fronts, it is prob­lem­atic. Ca­ni­paroli’s chore­og­ra­phy is some­what pre­dictable and his sce­nario choices are at times odd. The set de­sign (Michael Auer) is un­even and some cast­ing is mis­aligned.

The char­ac­ter of Drosselmeier (Marie’s god­fa­ther) is por­trayed here as a ge­nial maker of clocks and au­toma­tons, pos­si­bly with some mag­i­cal prow­ess. Gone is the more usual sin­is­ter, wiz­ard­like fig­ure, who teeters on the edge of kind­ness and cru­elty.

With­out that men­ace, the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is a dif­fi­cult one to bring off. Ni­cholas Schultz, though clear in his mime, lacks the edge that gives com­mand. He is not helped by some fussy busi­ness in scene one, which makes for a pon­der­ous be­gin­ning. For­tu­nately the pace quick­ens with the ar­rival of Marie, danced en­chant­ingly by Kather­ine Mi­nor. Na­dia Yanowsky (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Paul Mathews (her Cav­a­lier) are both strong dancers, but here are ill­suited to their roles.

This said, there are many de­light­ful mo­ments: Scene three, in the Stahlbaum home on Christ­mas Eve; the bat­tle of the Mice with their ter­rific masks and quirky cos­tumes; the mag­i­cal ride through the snow and the won­der­ful Waltz of the Po­hutukawa Flow­ers (a lovely touch.)

Spe­cial men­tion must go to Abi­gail Boyle and Lough­lan Prior, both as the Stahlbaums and as Ara­bian Cof­fee – an ex­cel­lent part­ner­ship; Fabio Lo Gi­u­dice’s dash­ing Nutcracker; Sara Gar­bowski’s daz­zling Dew­drop; the ro­bust Rus­sian Caviar trio; the scene-steal­ing chil­dren at the Stahlbaums, es­pe­cially Shan­wen Tan’s cheeky Fritz and all the Corps de Bal­let.

STEPHEN A’COURT/RNZB

The Nutcracker by the Royal New Zealand Bal­let in­cludes a won­der­ful Waltz of the Po­hutukawa Flow­ers.

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