Excerpts of four reviews by Octavio Roca
July 1, 2004
Often, the action is simply too small for the grand scale of the music. Yet the wonder of the Oakland production is the intelligence of the necessary choices: Guidi makes the piece work for his company, he makes the dancers look beautiful, and he lets the audience in on the fun.
If you look closely, there are also a few inside jokes. My favorite is a portrait of a smiling Guidi, as a 19th century nobleman, that hangs among the Drosselmeyer family pictures on Ron Steger's spectacular Act 1 set. The company's director and principal choreographer deserves that place of honor, along with the community's gratitude. There was a lot of joy on stage at the Paramount on Saturday, where "Nutcracker'' plays though Christmas Eve.
The Christmas party that opens the ballet is an intimate affair here -- and it works. Gone are the party guests, along with much of their music. But new and welcome are touches such as a humorous pas de trois for the children, a conspiratorial maid who joins the family at play and an expanded role for the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer.
The music, incidentally,
is redistributed whimsically throughout -- even Tchaikovsky's own coda
is reprised yet again as a pas de six for the fantasy couples of the Kingdom
of Sweets. This last brings a final image of classical splendor to a production
that is not long on classical virtues. It also makes clear what was unclear
to this point -- that the whole of "Nutcracker'' is but a Christmas
Monday, Dec 13, 1999, SF Chronicle
And yet it works. There are ravishing visions of lace and flowers and candy at the Paramount Theatre, and there are snowfalls. There is also wonderful playing by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, under the baton of John Kendall Bailey -- on opening night -- a match of live music and dance that Oakland Ballet and its audiences deserve to enjoy throughout the season.
Of course more dancers are needed, and at times the action is simply too small for the grand scale of the music. Yet Guidi makes the ballet fit this company. And Schmalle, not least in the example of his own noble dancing as both Marie's father and the Sugar Plum Cavalier, leads an ensemble intent on bringing to life a touching story.
The Stahlbaums' Christmas Eve dinner is in this version an intimate family affair. Gone are many friends, along with much of their music. But there are new and welcome touches such as a humorous pas de trois for the children, a conspiratorial maid who joins the family at play and an expanded role for the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer -- played with ineffable warmth and impeccable narrative clarity by Howard Sayette.
The giggle factor is high in this witty production, with some clever inside jokes that work every time. My own favorite is a portrait of a smiling Guidi, as a 19th century nobleman, that hangs among the family pictures on the backdrop of Ron Steger's spectacular Act 1 set.
The company's founder
and director emeritus deserves that place of honor in Oakland Ballet's
"Nutcracker,'' along with the community's gratitude.
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