Tonight was the official premiere of ABT’s new production of The Nutcracker. Last night was the unofficial premiere which, like tonight, also rocked the house at BAM.
First off, we of course had the obligatory speeches. Kevin McKenzie thanked the generous donors and especially the lead donor David Koch who gave $2.5 million for this project. Everyone applauded. Then Koch came out on the stage to receive a presentation from McKenzie – a framed drawing of the little red Nutcracker Prince. Everyone applauded. Koch must have been a little nervous about the reception he would receive, given all the hoopla in the press about his Tea Party funding, because after McKenzie’s presentation, he said, “Thank you, Peter” forgetting for a moment that he was not at Lincoln Center. He quickly corrected himself and was good natured about the slip-up. No matter what one may think of Koch’s politics, giving $2.5 million dollars for a new Nutcracker was deeply generous. He deserved the very warm applause, and he deserves our ongoing thanks for his contributions that allow New York’s world class ballet companies to thrive in an impossible economic climate.
Besides Koch’s slip of the tongue, there was one other slip up. One of the Bumble Bees attempted to pollinate one of the Flowers and their costumes became attached. One of the costumes ripped open baring the chest of . . . the Bumble Bee. They struggled with each other for a moment while everyone else continued to dance. When it became apparent that they would either have to dance forever attached or leave the stage, the Bumble Bee made a quick-thinking theatrical motion to wings, and the two ran off. A few bars later, the Bumble Bee buzzed back on stage and subsequently the Flower blossomed once again from wings. Just another memory made on Opening Night.
Little Clara and The Nutcracker Boy, Catherine Hurlin and Tyler Maloney, performed wonderfully. Both have serious theatrical chops and lived their stories impressively. But tonight it was Mousedemonium. Totally. If last night, the Little Mouse (Justin Souriau-Levine) was a scene stealer, then tonight he was in Little Mouse take-no-prisoners mode. When it was time for him to climb out of the copper pot in the Kitchen Scene, Justin exercised the authority of Spartacumouse – throwing the lid of the pot down on the table with a crash and bounding out. Standing down stage wiggling his little mouse arms and legs at the audience, it appeared that Conductor Ormsby Wilkins might have to wave him off, but then the little one smelled the action behind him and quickly sped away.
The soloists and corps dancers were the same as last night with the exceptions of Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin who performed the Chinese section with great energy and finesse.
Clara, the Princess, and the Nutcracker Prince were Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg. Tonight was decidedly different than last night. It was much cooler and much more traditional in feeling than the glorious, at times wild, energy of Part and Gomes the night before. While Murphy's and Hallberg's lines and pirouettes may have been cleaner and conservative, their dancing didn’t really connect them to the younger Clara and the Nutcracker Boy. Many will prefer the calmer, more traditional approach, but Haglund was so overwhelmed by Part and Gomes’ take on the whole story that tonight was a bit of a let-down. No one can really legitimately voice any complaints about the technique, though; it was pristine. Murphy and Hallberg approached the Grigorovich lift differently. She releved and he just picked her up and walked forward. There was a little bit of a bobble in her extended leg but there was never any threat of the pose dismantling. Hopefully one of the principal couples will find the courage to execute this lift in the true spirit of Grigorovich.
All in all, another wonderful night at the ballet. Haglund will now go to sleep in his clothes so that he can get a fast start to Brooklyn for tomorrow’s 11 a.m. performance. But before retiring, he needs to bestow upon this wonderful cast a lovely pink sherbet Pump Bump Awardwhich would, as with last night’s award, look lovely under those Waltz of the Flowers costumes: