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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Pennsylvania Ballet: The Nutcracker By George Balanchine

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

On December 23, 2009, I attended The Nutcracker at The Academy of Music. What an amazing experience! The Nutcracker, a favorite holiday ballet, is about a young girl named Marie. The ballet opens on an Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. The setting is festive and the danicng will surely put you in the holiday mood. One of the party-goers, Drosselmeyer , a toymaker and godfather to Marie and her brother Fritz, gives Marie a beautiful Nutcracker as a gift. Her brother Fritz then becomes very jealous of Marie’s present and breaks the Nutcracker ,but Drosselmeyer repairs it by using his almost magical handkerchief. After the party guests leave the Stahlbaum home, Marie falls asleep under the Christmas tree with the Nutcracker in her arms. She has a fantastic dream where toys become larger than life.

The opening scene is absolutely magnificent! The set design is to die for. It is beautifully put together and so realistic that the audience feel like it is inside of the story itself. Also, the children dancers play a key role in the ballet. More than 20 children dance their hearts out in this production. They always bring cheer and amusement to the audience members throughout the performance! The costumes were so fun and festive! The put me in the Christmas spirit immediately! My favorite costume in the opening scene is the costume worn by one of the little boys who attended the party. He wore a blue sailor suit.

The next scene starts. The Clock strikes midnight and weird things begin to happen. Marie begins to shrink and the Christmas tree begins to get larger. The toys under the tree magically come to life and the room quickly fills with an army of mice, which is led by the Mouse King. As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. This is followed by an intense one on one battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker wins in the end. The scene closes. This is one of my best-loved scenes because of the MASSIVE
Christmas tree and the army of mice. As soon as the Christmas tree started to grow in size, I was blown away by the size and grandeur of the tree. This was totally unexpected. Also, when the army of mice and the Mouse King invaded the stage, I was thrown back by how life like the heads of the mice looked like. It was thrilling and exciting at the same time to see the mice travel the length of the stage.

The next scene starts. The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes Marie on a journey to the land of snow. This is a beautiful forest scene where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes. At the end of this dance number a snow like substance begins to fall from the stage’s roof. The snow is so realistic! What a Winter Wonderland!

In the next scene, The Prince escorts Marie to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances. This celebration of dances included: Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Candy Canes, Marzipan Shepherdesses, Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles, Dewdrop flowers, and last but not least The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. I just adored the dance of the Candy Canes. The costumes for this number were right on point and very Christmassy! The lead dancer, Jermel Johnson ,was extremely talented and received much applause from the audience.

In the last scene, Marie awakes from her dream and finds herself by the tree with her Nutcracker.

The curtains then close and re-open and the dancers come out to bow before the audience. This was a truly beautiful performance put on by the Pennsylvania Ballet! From the set designs to the costumes ,everything was done to perfection! Without a doubt, this is a must see holiday event that children and adults are sure to enjoy!

To get your tickets for the Nutcracker or other upcoming events by the Pennsylvania Ballet, just visit its website at: or call 215-893-1999! The Nutcracker will be performed until December 31, 2009 at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust StreetsPhiladelphia, PA 19102.

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