Review: The Nutcracker

The Washington Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker" (Photo from media4artists, Theo Kossenas)

By Caeley Sacher

D.C.’s perennial favorite is back! The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker delivered yet another remarkable performance. Not only did they orchestrate a perfect rendition of the classic tale, but added modern twists with their state-of-the-art sets and performers. Although the lack of a live orchestra was disappointing, the time-honored music still ignited that holiday excitement.

The Warner Theatre provides an exceptional venue with their well-pitched seats, superb concessions, ushers and waiters. The theatre overcomes D.C. parking dilemmas and makes for an easy night out on the town. Watching Clara and her prince vanquish an army of mice and celebrate with whimsical dances from the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen is a wonderful sight.

The choreography by artistic director Julie Kent appeals to tradition, while still stirring new emotions in the audience. The worldwide view of dance demonstrates all the grace and elegance one would expect from such a production. The Russian original has been twisted to fit American standards, intended to appeal to tourists while still supporting that familiar, beloved story. The battle scene mirrors that of the Revolutionary War, with American patriots fighting mice in British redcoats, starring a doll which greatly resembles George Washington. The play featured a scene that simulates the Potomac River lined with cherry blossom trees. The festive atmosphere is primarily generated by the children on stage, who contribute to the shows considerable humor and vibrancy.

These changes started with former artistic director Septime Webre in 2004.  He worked with the ballet since 1999, quickly turning it from a three million dollar production to an eleven million dollar one. The best choreography was reserved for the children, since the absence of Webre, but the duets between Venus Villa as the Snow Queen and Jonathan Jordan’s Snow King create a steady, slow pace of beauty and elegance. The new scenes contradict Webre’s old flare for the fast-paced theatrics. The D.C. focus, wonderful set, and inspired dances provides a new twist that is worth seeing this winter.