"When I was a child it was important for my mother, now it is important for me — what my children will hear, what they will see. Instead of watching some really terrible movies, where people go in and kill each other for two hours, I much prefer my daughter or my sons to see another Nutcracker."The theater audience was filled with kids last night – cleaned-up, shiny faces, hair combed, curious but reluctant to stray far from the adult arm. There didn't seem to be any complaining about how they'd rather be home watching a video.
Balanchine's The Nutcracker at 58 years old is as young and spry as its newest Marie and LIttle Prince. This year's little duo of Rommie Tomasini and Maximillian Brooking Landegger led the children's cast that included Philip Henry Duclos as Fritz and 40-50 kids from the School of the American Ballet. They all did a fabulous job, but as often is the case, the highlight was the Little Prince's extended mimed solo at the beginning of Act II during which he summarizes all that happened in Act I culminating with the victorious arm salute with the dead Mouse King's crown in his hand.
Joshua Thew was the fierce but outwitted Mouse King. He was clearly winning the battle and was within a whisker of carrying off the battling Nutcracker Prince when – when – no one is going to believe this but Haglund saw this with his own eyes – it happened again – just like last year! The Bunny – yes, that Bunny – jumped up and did a quadruple tour en l'air to the left, ears spinning like helicopter blades, and then lifted its little bunny tail to reveal gas turbine bunny jets firing furiously. Suddenly, the Bunny shot toward the Mouse King, grabbed his big mouse tail, and it was all over in a second. The Mouse King didn't know what hit him. And then the Bunny blazed off into the wings leaving the Mouse King to carry a sore tail to his final defeat. The audience sat in shocked silence.
The adult principals, Tiler Peck as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Robert Fairchild as Her Cavalier, sailed through their PdD and variations with all the outsized magic kids expect at Christmas. Tiler's soft elegance was fortified with a steely technique that made everything she did look easy. One swore that the notes of the celesta were emanating from her pique pointes. Fairchild was less at home in the princely role of Her Cavalier than his more neo-classical roles. Some coupe jetes with an unpointed front foot and lagging turns in a la seconde were a bit of a disappointment but the partnering of Peck was, well, impeccable. His catches of her jumps to his shoulder were kiss-perfect.
Ana Sophia Scheller's Dew Drop was stunning for its clarity and ease of balances. The shape and control of a fouette sequence was one of the prettiest sights of the evening. Ana is expending more effort on musical phrasing which is tremendously important but there were a couple of times last night when she was a little late to recognize an opportunity but then pushed her own phrasing through it anyway. She will dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy at next Saturday's matinee, which Haglund hopes to see.
The dances in the Act II Land of Sweets were a little sticky in places. Among the company corps dancers, which on this night included a big group of apprentices, there seemed to be a mandate to dance really, really big no matter the consequences. As a result, the corps was a little more "harmonious" than a single note, but it's still early in this five week Nutcracker run.
The Pump Bump Award, an embroidered jeweled stiletto from Christian Louboutin, is bestowed upon Ana Sophia Scheller for her dazzling display as Dewdrop: