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Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004
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Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Nov 23, 2004 12:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

From the SF Chronicle.

A new 'Nutcracker' that breaks with tradition? Yes!
Alastair Macaulay, Special to The Chronicle

Until it was 100, though, "Nutcracker" was always a ballet institution. Even "The Hard Nut," Mark Morris's 1991 modern dance retelling of the story, includes ballet as part of its vision, albeit inside-out, with some women dancing barefoot and some men on pointe. However, in Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!" there is no pointe work, no ballet bravura, no national dances, no Sugar Plum Fairy. Sounds all wrong, but it works like a dream.

<small>[ 09 December 2004, 12:57 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

A review from the SF Chronicle.

Bourne's despairing 'Nutcracker!' more a nightmare then a dream
Michael Wade Simpson, Special to The Chronicle

Bourne's conceit to set things in a Dickensian orphanage is not a bad idea, but the direction, which is probably a more appropriate word to use than choreography, has adults playing children in the first act, badly. The use of recorded music also starts things off in a disappointing mode.

Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

A review from Contra Costa Times.

Dickens and candyland themes give 'Nutcracker' offshoot fresh energy

By Mary Ellen Hunt

Special to the Mercury News

The British Bourne's work is equally at home on Broadway and West End stages as in ballet venues, because he's more of a whiz-bang showman than a great choreographer. ``Nutcracker!'' was Bourne's first full-length ballet in 1992, and even after some revisions, the choreography still has an underlying look of inexperience in its free-form, arm-swinging structure. However, his re-envisioning of the ``Nutcracker'' story itself can't be faulted, and the production is a delight in design and dramatic direction.

In Bourne's version of the classic tale, we find ourselves, not in a gracious German mansion for Christmas, but a dreary Victorian orphanage, directed by Dr. Dross -- played on opening night with fascist menace by James Leece -- and his Nurse Ratchet-like wife, an impressively lofty Annabelle Dalling.

Author:  DavidH [ Mon Nov 29, 2004 4:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

It's not a perfect Nutcracker by any means, but it's pretty damn good and I'm actually going back to see it for a second time. IMHO opinion Mary Ellen Hunt got it right. The Chron reviewer is way off the mark (and the SF Chron is sponsoring these performances! haha) I've read another review that pretty much echoes the Chron's. I hate it when those who are supposed to "know" just don't get it.

Happy Holidays!

Author:  mehunt [ Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Thanks, David! Let me know how the other casts are!

Also, just an FYI, the San Jose MercuryNews has picked up my last couple of reviews, but the editors there produce a slightly different final piece than at the Contra Costa Times (it's a little longer in the times) Here is the link to the CCTimes version if you're interested.

<small>[ 30 November 2004, 12:23 AM: Message edited by: mehunt ]</small>

Author:  Toba Singer [ Tue Nov 30, 2004 6:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!, Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley, California, November 28, 2004

When the opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” prompt a gaggle of Bourne-to-Lose orphans, in faded black smocks (girls) and faded black pants and dingy gray shirts (boys), to straggle self-consciously onto the proscenium (where Drosselmeier and the Chestnut Lady usually exchange pleasantries), we are primed for a finale where the children are transformed into Bourne-to-Win victors over adversity.

In between, there is much in the way of concept to delight in. Most of it consists of social commentary that delivers British noblesse oblige the flogging it so richly deserves. Set in a dilapidated orphanage, with cracking plaster and an imposing clock that screams, “Be punctual or to the clock tower you’ll go!” we see orphans cleaning and scrubbing. They are preparing for a Christmas visit by patrons who will review the orphan troops to determine which will receive the very best presents, and deselect those who will receive the “re-gifted” hand-me-downs. The orphanage is under the austere command of Dr. Dross (James Leece) and his Cruella-like wife, whose shoulder pads exude more hauteur than the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The big, beautiful gift boxes never make it to such deserving orphans as Clara (danced rakishly by Shelby Williams) because while Dr. Dross is giving one of the more comely female patrons a lascivious sidelong glance, his petulant children, Sugar (danced with appropriate hubris by the very tantalizing Anjali Mehra) and Fritz (danced with excellent facility and musicality by Philip Willingham) grab the giant boxes that are not for them, open them and proceed to taunt the orphan children with their state-of-the- Victorian-Art contents. The orphans dance calisthenics-type rondos, while Fritz and Sugar cavort anti-balletically, never jumping, so much as executing grandiose fakeouts. You’ve seen these children pushed by their ambitious mothers into ballet class on the point of the same bayonet that forks over mega-euro donations to the dance academy. Fritz mangles the forlorn little Nutcracker doll (who looks more like Howdy Doody than a toy soldier). Rather than Drosselmeier coming to its rescue, the self-acting children themselves mime a surgical team—one of the most tender moments in the show—and bring the Nutcracker back to life.

In Sweetieland, we meet a slightly different cast of characters than we might have been led to expect by the version that this one lampoons. Mother Ginger has been remastered into a hefty licorice security guard who defends an obscene, glitter-lipped, uvula-revealing open mouth that is the backdrop. The sparkling orifice is the point of entry for all the high-end candy, so long as it has a ticket to ride. Clara, being at the lowest end of the pecking order, has no such ticket. She spends the entire divertissement segment attempting to dissemble her way in, by gamely dancing along with the equivalents of Spanish, Marzipan and an over-the-top solo Arabian, where the mustachioed dancer is costumed in a smoking jacket and an ascot, with a whip of meringue topped by a cherry for a coiffure. Chinese is inexplicably retred as a Marshmallow number, and to the music for Russian, we are treated to a raucous faux macho Motorcycle gang, whose tripak jumps simulate sex and cycling. The sugar-bourne hyperactivity increases onstage as the musical crescendos mark the show’s syrup-sluggish peristalsis. It's looking rawther sickening for Clara when Sugar steals her only hope for a love life—the now-supersize-me, hunk of a Nutcracker, Philbert (danced by Adam Galbraith), who may not be able to dance all that well, but sure has all the requisite hormones. In the end, a pair of cupids, one near-sighted and the other inept, manage to make it happen for Clara and Philbert. He tosses a tether of knotted bedsheets out the orphanage's dormer window, and escapes with his honey to what one hopes is sweeter place, (not to be confused with “West Side Story”).

The choreography is always clever, but falls a little short of the mark, technically, almost deliberately so, to achieve comedic effect. The jumps all look like those that Howard Morris and Carl Reiner used to do on the Sid Caesar Show (Does anyone else remember them?)—high, ballonless and waggly. It would really move the artistry up a notch if we could catch a glimpse of some really good dancing—since there appear to be a number of really good dancers, many of who, according to the credits, received their really good training at London’s Central School of Ballet. The choreography, while clever, isn’t ingenious enough to give them the opportunity to show much that is polished, finished or artistically special.

That said, the show is still a kind of homeopathic antidote to the traditional Nutcracker—fighting a lot of sugar with just a few more spoonfuls, or perhaps we should say “spoof-fuls.”

<small>[ 05 December 2004, 03:25 PM: Message edited by: Toba Singer ]</small>

Author:  LMCtech [ Thu Dec 02, 2004 5:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Another review from the Oakland Tribune.

'Nutcracker!' more campy musical than classical ballet


PURISTS take heart: you'll always have Balanchine.
For the rest of us, there's Matthew Bourne, the British director and choreographer who does marvelously theatrical things with dance.

After showing us his mostly male "Swan Lake" and a 1950s greaser "Carmen" called "Car Man," Bourne unleashes his "Nutcracker!" on an unsuspecting American public.

If you go to this Cal Performances presentation expecting to fawn over the Sugar Plum Fairy or sneer at the Mouse King, forget it. The exclamation point at the end of Bourne's "Nutcracker!" is there for a reason.

Author:  art076 [ Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

That Chronicle review is really bad - and not in the sense that it is a pan. I might've been able to respect his criticisms of Bourne's Nutcracker earlier in the piece if he didn't later reveal himself to be totally misinformed about Bourne's work later on. He entered the show with the wrong set of expectations - and that makes the writer look like he didn't do his research at all. He was expecting a pretty children's classical ballet, and got a Bourne piece instead; to criticize it for not being the pretty ballet he expected, especially when Bourne has already been recognized for his own unique brand of theatre/dance, is absurd. Even if it's not the best Bourne piece - or even if its not very good - please criticize it in the correct context, not in one that basically criticizes the orange for not tasting like an apple. One expects more from arts critics in the San Francisco Chronicle; they're supposed to know their genre!

End rant here...

<small>[ 03 December 2004, 02:16 AM: Message edited by: art076 ]</small>

Author:  kurinuku [ Sat Dec 04, 2004 3:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

You haven't seen this 'Nutcracker'

Special to U-Entertainment
December 03, 2004

One of the hottest choreographers in the world today, Matthew Bourne has made his mark on London's West End and Broadway by updating classical ballets into witty theatrical spectacles that have become modern dance classics in their own right.

<small>[ 17 December 2004, 03:28 AM: Message edited by: kurinuku ]</small>

Author:  art076 [ Wed Dec 08, 2004 12:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Saw this on first night in Orange County:

I found Nutcracker amusing and colorful, if not as strong as Matthew Bourne's later work in "Swan Lake" and "Cinderella." Bourne's ballets are more theater-dance than dance-theatre, but he often has his moments of choreographic brilliance as well. "Nutcracker!" is clearly an earlier work than the later three pieces we have seen in Los Angeles (with "The Car Man" being the third of the aforementioned two ballets). Bourne's knack for storytelling is present here as it is in all of his pieces, but the choreography doesn't all add up to the sum of its parts.

Act 1 in particular is very clever, with some pretty funny choreography that tells the story quite clearly. The March is quite amusing and very well choreographed, and the antics of the orphans throughout are hilarious. But the story is basically dead by the beginning of Act II, and Act II is decidedly tedious. The divertissement dances are very over the top, made even more strange without a strong connecting through-line. The storytelling inventiveness we saw in Act I evaporated in Act II; the only thing holding the show together were the truly dedicated performers and the sheer colorfulness of the sets and costumes.

The production would likely flow better if performed without an intermission (and according to Alastair Macaulay's book on Matthew Bourne, it was originally created without an intermission). If the production were to flow straight through, no momentum would be lost during intermission; the ending to Act I doesn't have much oomph, and the remaining story doesn't have enough weight to carry as its own act.

All in all, though, the production is quite amusing, worth it to see a very different - and not horrendous - take on the Nutcracker. Do not, however, come in expecting your pretty, storybook ballet Nutcracker.

<small>[ 08 December 2004, 01:27 AM: Message edited by: art076 ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Dec 08, 2004 7:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Bourne's "Nutcracker!" has a strange history. His original "Nutcracker" (note there isn't an exclamation mark) remains under copyright to AMP with whom he split a couple of years ago. The disputes have since been settled, but in between he made this new version with new sets and steps and at the time Bourne said that he thought no one would notice any changes. I thought it must be a dispiritng process to have to rechoreograph, rather than revise.

The original version was my first Bourne piece and I was delighted by it. The new version didn't make such a big impact, but it's difficult to say whether it's due to changes in the production or in the way I look at dance. From the same period as the new "Nutcracker!", I certainly enjoyed "Play Without Words" much more.

<small>[ 09 December 2004, 12:54 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Here's the remainder of the US tour and I'll change the topic title to reflect the full tour:

Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley, USA
November 30 - December 5 2004

Orange County Performing Arts Center, Orange County, USA
December 7 - 12 2004

Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
December 15 2004 - January 2 2005

Author:  kurinuku [ Sun Dec 19, 2004 11:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Frankencracker? A Hero Toy Turns Monster

the New York Times

Is there a dramaturge in the house? Well, yes - apparently three: Mr. Bourne; Anthony Ward, the production's designer; and Martin Duncan, a stage director and composer, are all credited with the scenario. What they got right was child psychology, the lust for revenge after mistreatment, as embodied in the orphans' revolt (a pillow fight).

Author:  Jeff [ Tue Dec 28, 2004 12:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

Hello, CD friends! If you're in southern California, just a reminder just in it hadn't quite registered, but the Matthew Bourne "Nutcracker!" is still playing at Royce Hall at UCLA through the weekend. Even if you think that after Christmas Day and its aftermath, you're totally burned out on "Nutcracker," you should still go see this show -- it's not your ordinary "Nutcracker." For one thing ... NO CHILDREN!

Also, it's inventive and humorous with plenty to entertain at every level of audience goer from children who will like the campy retro characters like the Marshmallow Girls and the Gobstoppers to adults who will appreciate the more *ahem* adult references to alternative lifestyles such as the Knickerbocker Glory's hypersexuality and the brief pole dance you see them do to the Waltz of the Flowers. For the analytically minded -- or the supremely jaded ballet goer -- savor the strong anti-theatrical and anti-balletic subtext as if Bourne was making an inventory of how many ways could he offer a "Nutcracker" that subverts the tidy world of the regular "Nutcracker."

In fact, I'd have to say that the more burnt out on the regular show you are, the better you will be primed for this one -- have you ever wondered what "Nutcracker" would be like if Clara was thrown out of the Land of the Sweets (aka Sweetieland) ... Bourne can show you and more.

According to UCLALive's website, they are offering 2 free for 2 paid tickets on selected matinees this upcoming holiday weekend.

<small>[ 28 December 2004, 02:01 AM: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>

Author:  monkeysraincoat [ Fri Jan 28, 2005 2:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker!": US tour 2004

I just wanted to commend Jeff Kuo on his brilliant review of Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! which appears in this month's magazine. It really captures the essence of the production and of Matthew's flair for turning a classic into a classic all of its own.

Wonderfully fun review to read. Thanks.


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