This story hasn’t made The New York Times yet, but there has been plenty of vitriol spewed by those guys Brux & Boggle on WRAT Talk Radio. They didn’t like what went down last night at the opening performance of New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. We wouldn’t believe the story ourselves if we hadn’t been there last night and seen it with our own eyes. In nearly a century of covering the goriest of Nutcracker battles, we’ve never come across anything quite like this before. Oh, you haven’t heard?
As fully expected, the Rat Patrol barged in and began wrecking havoc throughout little Marie’s Christmas Eve dream. Ugly, nasty looking things, they were. The toy soldiers were doing their best to beat them back through precision drilled musket firing while on their bellies, but there were plenty of casualties throughout the ranks. Tiny soldiers were picked up handily by the big rats and carried off stage to face their demise or be delivered to a dressing room to change into their Act II costumes.
Suddenly, The Bunny began pacing back and forth upstage, banging his little drum, and his lips were moving angrily. But what was he saying? The Bunny’s anger seemed to be growing and growing. He seemed suddenly full of rage and was speaking forcefully to no one in particular.
Haglund pulled out his opera glasses to focus on The Bunny so that he could read his lips. There was no mistaking what he was saying:
“I have a plan. I have plan, but I’m gonna need a few things. Nobody calls me vermin or rodent - not unless they want five or six shots in the freakin' face from this baby.”
The Bunny spun his drumsticks into a blur and suddenly he was holding a blast machine gun. The audience gasped. But it was too late. The Bunny tore off his bunny suit to reveal his true identity as Blastin' Rocket Raccoon, the cybernetically-enhanced and very fierce Guardian of the Galaxy. He set his gun sights on the Rat King who was by now twirling the little Nutcracker soldier around in circles while holding him by the ankles and counting down to a celebratory wishbone split.
“That rat dude there is gonna die,” sneered Rocket.
With that, he pumped ten rounds into the Rat King and then ran over and tied his tail into a sailor’s knot before blazing off stage-left into the wing. He was heard hollering, “That better get me a mention in the Times’ review.”
Thankfully, the scene quieted down quickly when it started to snow. The Snow Scene was beautiful with several new young snowflakes added to the squall, as is customary at NYCB. This year, they looked especially ready and up to the task, and everybody held onto their snowballs through the end of the act.
Before we forget, Devin Alberda was a sensational Soldier soloist in Act I. Excellent reverberation in the limbs, but also impressive entrechats six with flexed feet and tours with rotating spot. Avery Lin, Sawyer Reo, and Philip Henry Duclos were energetic and musically perfect in their roles as Marie, Fritz, and The Nutcracker. Robert La Fosse gave Herr Drosselmeier’s character just the right amount of darkness without making him seem creepy.
Act II featured Brittany Pollack and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Hot Chocolate, Georgina Pazcoguin as Coffee, Antonio Carmena as Tea, Daniel Ulbricht as Candy Cane, Erica Pereira leading the Marzipan Shepherdesses, Andrew Scordato as Mother Ginger, Ashley Bouder as Dew Drop, and Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette as the Sugarplum Fairy and Her Cavalier. Everyone's Opening Night enthusiasm was high and energy was off the charts.
Georgina Pazcoguin’s Coffee maintained a real air of mystery about herself in addition to being seductive.
Erica Pereira was delicate but sure-footed in Marzipan. She seems never to struggle with technique and has a lovely demeanor on stage. We wish Peter Martins would figure out how to propel her to the next level in her artistry.
Sometimes our Dew Drop and Sugarplum Fairy seemed to be using enough force and energy to be dancing Stars and Stripes or Theme and Variations. There is plenty of room within their Nutcracker music to shape their phrases with more than just force. When every glissade, every pique, every temps de fleche, every transition step is as huge as it can possibly be, the audience gets confused about which part of the combination is the important trick and doesn’t know when to applaud. It’s not good to confuse the old audience or make them think that they should applaud for a glissade.
Andrew Veyette was on fire. He is to ballet what John Misha Petkevich was to ice skating back in the early ‘70s. Remember how Petkevich threw those crazy spin jumps, and it looked like he never had any idea how they would land? Well, that’s Veyette. He just goes for it and seemingly figures out where it’s all going while he’s up in the air. On Friday night, his finishes were on the money each time and were pretty thrilling.
And so we begin the Nutcracker season. The first H.H. Pump Bump Award, a glittery stiletto adorned with bunny ears by Qian Jibaby, is awarded to the young performer who portrayed the all-important Bunny on opening night. We don’t know his or her name because the Bunny’s identity is not specified in the Playbill, but we’d recognize the serious little face anywhere.