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Joanna G. Harris
Music and Dance Reviews
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Performance Reviews
The Paramount Theatre
United States
San Francisco Bay Area
Oakland, CA

Oakland Ballet's The Nutcracker a Joyous Event

by Joanna G. Harris
December 19, 2015
The Paramount Theatre
2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 465-6400
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Christmas comes and goes bringing revenue to ballet companies with annual productions of The Nutcracker. The ballet tradition is at least 123 years old.

The origin of The Nutcracker, a classic Christmas story, is a fairytale ballet in two acts centered on a family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Alexandre Dumas Père’s adaptation of the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann was set to music by Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. It was commissioned by the director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891, and premiered a week before Christmas 1892

The San Francisco Ballet premiered the first American offering in 1944. George Balanchine’s NYC Ballet production in 1954, followed by those in all his spin-off companies, made it famous throughout the U.S.

Graham Lustig, artistic director and choreographer of Oakland Ballet brought a delightful and vivid rendition of The Nutcracker ballet to the Paramount Theater in Oakland, December 19-20.

Although the stage space was limited and shallow, Lustig was able to commandeer dozens of children, of all shapes, sizes and colors, onto its wonderland of scenes. The participants, in their roles as children at the party, mice, rats, bon-bons, toy soldiers, snowballs and clowns were the stars of the show. They entered and left the stage with precision, participated in each scene with enthusiasm and energy, and took their bows to the joy and enthusiasm of the audience. Graham, you are to be applauded for it all, but particularly for their participation and performance.

Of course the leading ladies and gentlemen deserve recognition. Marie, the young lady who receives the Nutcracker as a gift, danced by Ramona Kelley (recently seen here in Twyla Tharp’s company) did an outstanding job throughout her many scenes. Her Nutcracker prince, Gregory DeSantis partnered her with skill and fine dramatic role playing. Both are accomplished dancers.

Kudos are well deserved by Damon Mahoney as Uncle Drosselmeyer, and the dancers in the various “region” dances: the Arabian, Chinese, Russian, German, little ‘emperors’ as well as the flowers.

My one reservation in withholding first class applause is for Megan Terry as the Sugar Plum Fair and her Cavalier Nathan Cottam. Theirs were very difficult roles. They must bring the dreams to an end with great technical skill. Their ‘pas de duex’ demands endurance, charm and exquisite partnering. Perhaps they were tired (two shows were given that day), but their performances failed to produce the magic expected in the pas de deux. Overall however, Oakland Ballet’s The Nutcracker delivered great Christmas joy.

Kudos also to Zack Brown for his excellent costume and set design; Patty Ann Farrell, the Bay Area’s best lighting artist; Michael Morgan, conductor of the Oakland Symphony and Ken Rawdon, director of the Mt. Eden H.S. women’s ensemble.

Photo © & courtesy of David DeSilva

Photo © & courtesy of David DeSilva

Photo © & courtesy of David DeSilva

Photo © & courtesy of David DeSilva

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