I haven’t seen Corps de Ballet member Eric Tamm in lead roles, but after his Saturday matinee Nutcracker, I wish I could see him more. He was nearly flawless as the Nutcracker Prince, navigating the difficult partnering section and sailing through his solos. The male solo is difficult, particularly after the exhausting partnering section. The solo consists of intricate beats in succession and small jumps, with a few double tours thrown in. No big turn or jump sequences, just a series of difficult to connect steps. He handled the task quite well. Gillian Murphy was Princess Clara and the two were perfect compliments. They connected well and truly seemed in love. Gillian is a consistent performer and always delivers a graceful, confident performance; I particularly like watching her authoritative turn sequences.
Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak were the leads on Thursday. I really enjoyed Joseph as Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet last spring and Sarah in A Month in the Country in the fall. However, they struggled through parts of the difficult and treacherous pas de deux, misfiring on a lift and having to improvise for the duration of the aborted lift. They got through with great effort the very strenuous lift at the end of the partnering section in which he lifts her with one hand on her rear end, with the other hand on her supporting leg (Haglund attributes the lift to Soviet dancer and choreographer Yuri Grigorovich). Overall, it was a tense pas de deux and not much playful interaction I saw with Veronika and Marcelo. The two were more at ease in their solos, which were quite good. Joseph’s beats were clean and well articulated with his long line and nice feet. Also, nice controlled tours, wrapped up with a good double pirouette section from first position. Sarah was solid in her solo demonstrating her precise footwork and turns.
What is it with ABT’s cannon in The Battle scene? To attack a mice battalion, a big artillery cannon is dramatically lowered in place and the boy Nutcracker gives the order to fire. When working properly, a slowly moving ring of smoke rises from the canon to the other end of the stage for great dramatic effect. When it does not fire as in Thursday evening, soldiers stand around holding their ears waiting for the big bang and then move on to their next steps when the moment never arrives. This does not appear to be an anomaly as the canon did not fire at one performance I attended last year and another performance this year according to a post on Ballet Alert.
The character acting was very expressive. I especially enjoyed Roman Zhurbin as Drosselmeyer, Julio Bragado-Young as the Cook and Adrienne Schulte and Luciana Voltolini as the Maids. In a particularly funny scene, the maids mocked the departed guests gesturing about their excessive drinking and bad dancing.
Nuances abound in the Ratmansky Nutcracker and I find myself discovering things I haven’t seen before such as a mouse that goes head first into the soup pot in the first segment.
The performance features beautiful and colorful costumes. I like the pink/red/white Flowers costumes and, although not my favorite dances, the Columbine, Harlequin, and Recruit dolls of Act I. The sets are rather spartan with the tree deserving a few more decorations. The Act II Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy is basically a blue/green backdrop with a painted gold gate.
When ABT announced the new Ratmansky Nutcracker in 2009, the plan was to increase the run to four weeks. ABT trumpeted the economic virtues of the Nutcracker as it is the financial foundation of many ballet companies and it provides an introduction to ballet for many children. However, I wonder if the Nutcracker is the financial success the company was anticipating. The ABT Nutcracker ended its 2013 run with 12 performances over 8 days, similar to 2012. In 2011, there were 18 performances over 13 days. Not sure why the four-week plan has not materialized, but it is probably due to a lack of ticket sales, despite the lower cost relative to New York City Ballet. As I noted in an earlier post, the ABT version is very reasonably priced, about half of the price of a similar New York City Ballet Nutcracker ticket.
Since the ABT Nutcracker is a new product relative to more established Nutcrackers, more advertising could help. I have not seen much print and TV ads for the ABT Nutcracker, unlike the New York City Ballet version. This is shame because the ABT version is very good and reasonably priced.