Review: Boston Ballet’s production of Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker

Review: Boston Ballet’s production of Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker

Angelica Potter

  • Massachusetts Columnist

Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker World Premiered in 2012 and is back again this year performed by the Boston Ballet Company, Boston Ballet II, and Boston Ballet School Students with approximately 150 dancers involved in each performance. Mikko Nissinen’s production is based on the libretto by Alexandre Dumas père, titled The Tale of the Nutcracker, which is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Set in Germany in the early 1800s, The Nutcracker, is a story of a young girl named Clara, her family’s Christmas Eve party, and the adventure she has when her nutcracker doll comes to life. 

Conductor Beatrice Jona Affron masterfully led the orchestra through the delightfully familiar music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The set and costumes were exquisitely designed by Robert Perdziola and were pleasantly complimented by the lighting, designed by Mikki Kunttu. The detailed sets were all painted by hand and roughly three hundred and fifty costumes were made for this production to accommodate multiple casts. One hundred and eighty-two of those costumes appear on stage in each performance. Each was creatively designed to not only look stunning on stage, but also be fully functional for the dancer wearing it. Meticulously crafted, many costumes feature hand painted patterns and hundreds of jewels.   

The prologue features Drosselmeier, expressively portrayed by Eris Nezha, putting on a Children’s Theatre performance in the town square. Minutes later the curtain opens to further to reveal the Silberhaus’ home and the Christmas Eve party they are hosting for family and friends. The interactions between siblings Clara (Delia Wada-Gill) and Fritz (Kao Chun) were nicely acted. They and the other children in the party scene were energetic, engaged in the story they were sharing, and demonstrated clean technique. There were a few instances however, where their smiles were not realistic and looked forced as if they were trying really hard to continue smiling throughout the scene. The adult characters, on the other hand, all exhibited more natural and cheery expressions. Drosselmeier brings larger-than-life toys to perform for the party guests and each was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. Both Harlequin (Irlan Silva) and the Ballerina Doll (Ji Young Chae) were fantastic and their movements were spot on with the music. The audience gasped when the Bear (Lawrence Rines) emerged from his gift box and he quickly become one of their favorite characters. 

As the Christmas tree grows and reveals the life size nutcracker, the amazed audience applauds the wonder before them. It is truly one of the most magical and stunning moments in the show. If the audience wasn’t engaged in the performance before that point, they certainly were now. Overall, the battle scene between the Mouse King, mice, baby mice and the Nutcracker Prince, soldiers, bunny and gingerbread man is amusing and action packed; though it is hard to focus on any particular part because so much is going on at once. The mice sneaking treats was adorable and the small gingerbread man being nibbled on by the baby mice and being saved by the bunny was a very cute interaction receiving chuckles and awes from the audience. 

Act one ends with the elegant and enchanting snow scene. The snow sparkled as it fell to the stage and little reindeer pulling a carriage carrying the Snow Queen and King appeared. The Snow Queen was beautifully danced by Seo Hye Han, who was partnered by Paul Craig as the Snow King. Their Pas de Deux was exquisitely magical. Their expressions were blissful and their dancing divine. The snowflakes, as a whole, all had sweet smiles on their faces as they gracefully floated across the stage. They danced completely in sync and were a spectacular end to act one. 

Act two opens in the clouds of the Nutcracker Prince’s Kingdom. The Nutcracker Prince, played by Patrick Yocum, and Clara float into the Kingdom on a cloud and are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy and many members of the royal court. The Nutcracker Prince shares with them how Clara aided him in defeating the Mouse King and a special performance ensues to show Clara their gratitude. The first performance is an upbeat Spanish routine danced by Emily Entingh, Kathryn McDonald, Alexander Maryianowski, and Desean Taber. Next is an Arabian number that was supremely danced by Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili. His entrance was incredibly strong and he continued to demonstrate his strength and power in his partner work with Cirio. In one moment they were flying through the air, in the next he was lifting her overhead as she extended her limbs into various positions. Cirio demonstrated exceptional flexibility, control and fluidity throughout. Their performance was easily a favorite of the night. 

The Chinese number was led by Ji Young Chae and Irlan Silva who nicely executed each jump and turn all while maintaining pleasant expressions. The highlight of Pastorale were the lovable bouncing little sheep who received an audible “awe” upon their entrance. While the trio of Florimond Lorieux, Diana Albrecht, and Maria Alvarez danced wonderfully, these sheep stole the scene for sure. Next up was Mother Ginger (Marcus Romeo) and her children who were an instant crowd pleaser. Romeo was fantastic with expressive facials and great character choices. 

The exuberant Russian routine led by Isaac Akiba with Mamuka Kikalishvili and Lawrence Rines was bursting with energy and power from start to finish. They consistently soared across the stage with numerous and fast jumps and turns. Akiba, a Boston native, was confident as he strongly executed a turning combination that got the audience cheering. By the end the audience broke out into thunderous applause for this powerful trio making it clear this was another of their favorites. 

The gorgeous Waltz of the Flowers followed, led by Lead Flowers Lauren Herfindahl and Addie Tapp and the always graceful Ashely Ellis as the Dew Drop. The trio was lovely together and when joined by the other flowers it was easy to be enrapt in their performance. Their grande développé’s towards the end of the routine were high and executed in perfect unison. Ellis as the Dew Drop was dazzling and not just because of the sparkles in her costume. Her joyful facial expression and the way she glided around the stage with ease made it clear that she truly enjoys dancing and sharing this magical story with the audience. 

The Grand Pas de Deux featured Misa Kuranaga as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Patrick Yocum as the Nutcracker Prince. They maintained great eye contact and moved together with perfect musicality. They were graceful with exquisite extensions and impeccably timed lifts. Yocum’s solo was strongly executed with sharp, clean lines and jumps that ascended off the floor. Kuranaga’s solo was flawless. Her footwork was precise and delicately executed. She maintained supreme balance and control and her turns were quick and clean, moving around the stage effortlessly. Their Pas de Deux was breathtaking and received roaring applause. The audience clearly loved this pair. 

The finale was energetic and brought all the characters bursting back onto the stage including the strong Arabians with perfect double attitude jumps, the powerful Russian trio and the beautiful Dew Drop and Flowers. Overall, this performance was a glittering, majestic production full of holiday magic. This family-friendly holiday masterpiece is not to be missed and will certainly give you memories that will last for years to come. © Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker performs all 43 performances at the Boston Opera House (539 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111) from November 25th through December 31st. Tickets and more information can be found at www.bostonballet.org or by calling the Box Office at 617-695-6955.

Ashley Ellis as Dew Drop (in center) and Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

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