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Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker Nov-Dec 2005
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Nov 17, 2005 10:28 am ]
Post subject:  Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker Nov-Dec 2005

A link to the Nutcracker main page on the PNB website:

Nutcracker Main Page

The production opens on November 25 and extends through December 28. Here is a link to the casting page:

Nutcracker Casting

Author:  Azlan [ Sat Nov 26, 2005 4:35 pm ]
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I don't know exactly what it is -- maybe it's the theater, having a new artistic director or any number of other factors -- but I really enjoyed the opening night of this Nutcracker, in spite of my aversion to things Nutcracker during the holiday season.

My personal highlights were Patricia Barker, stuning as Clara, and the explosive Jonathan Porretta in the Comedia section (Mirlitons to the rest of us). Carrie Imler pulled all the stops as the queen of the Waltz Flowers (but I do prefer the Waltz Queen a little more, well, soft and flowery?) while Ariana Lallone as always was an exotic Peacock (that's the Arabian section) and Maria Chapman was glamorous as the ballerina doll.

And there's a nice touch with a bit Mozart thrown into Act I, which gives three dancers -- on opening night, Rebecca Johnston, Benjamin Griffiths and Lucien Postlewaite, all amazingly still corps dancers -- a chance to display some really nice dancing in the Masque section.

It's also always nice to see students from the school -- especially boys -- displaying professional talent at such an early age. Laura Anne Wallace was effectively dramatic as the young and precocious Clara whose nightmare it is that sets the story while a debonair Casey Herd and a demure Stacy Lowenberg were highly likeable as her parents.

The not-so-secret secret of PNB productions however is the orchestra. It is such a thrill to listen to this group of musicians led by Stuart Kershaw. That experience is worth the ticket price all on its own!

PS -- A travel tip for downtown Seattle: if you want a front row view of the Macy's Christmas parade on the day after Thanksgiving and the Christmas tree lighting, concert and fireworks later that afternoon, then get a room facing 4th Ave at the Mayflower Park. Better still, get a corner room or suite. But if you intend to sleep in (or take a nap later if you can't sleep in), then find another hotel for Thanksgiving... ... ... ... ...

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Nov 28, 2005 10:48 am ]
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A pair of Nutcracker previews and a review.

A preview from R. M. Campbell in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

P-I Preview

Judy Chia Hui Hsu interviews PNB's head of costuming, Larae Hascall, about maintaining and preparing and refurbishing the Nutcracker costumes from year to year:

Seattle Times

R. M. Campbell reviews the Saturday matinee performance from November 26 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

P-I Review

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 30, 2005 7:11 pm ]
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Moira Macdonald reviews the opening night cast from Friday, November 25, 2005 in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times

Author:  Dean Speer [ Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:20 pm ]
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Humming Along
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker”
Saturday, 26 November 2005 – Evening Show
McCaw Hall
Seattle, Washington

by Dean Speer

Ba, tuuh, daa, ti, da, de, dah, di, dah, dah, dah, di, daah. Oops, that’s the waltz from “Sleeping Beauty” – another balletic Tchaikovsky favorite. What I meant was: Omm-chuck-chuck, Omm-chuck-chuck; la ta ti ta de dah, la ta da di dah dah di dah; la da di da domp; la da di da domp, la da di dah da de da da de dah; repeat. Dancing Plants in 3/4.

While all parts of that perennial holiday favorite are delectable, some parts are those that we wait for all evening or from year-to-year. Musically, for me, it’s the ‘Waltz of Flowers’ which I lovingly moniker, ‘Waltz of the Petunias’ as a term of endearment and the thrilling music that accompanies the growing of the Christmas Tree and later, the Snow Scene/Corps. Choreographically, the “big” piece is the Grand Pas de Deux that concludes Act II, before the denouement.

I was a-hummin’ and bouncing on my toes in anticipation of seeing PNB’s justly-famous Stowell/Sendak production. I particularly wanted to see a cast that was new to me: Kaori Nakamura as Adult Clara and Jeffrey Stanton as her Nutcracker Prince. In Act II, I was also wanted to indulge myself with the pleasure of Ariana Lallone’s Flora in ‘Flowers.’ It was also fun seeing Carla Körbes making her Peacock début. She is a soloist new to the Company, fresh from NYBC.

We were not disappointed. All that wonderful energy, excitement – on both sides of the footlights – and beautiful dancing. While there were some minor early-in-the-run kinds of things that I observed (such as a new company member accidently standing and blocking the view of Young Clara while she put her new Nutcracker away in the upstage toy box), the overall effect is still one that thrills and satisfies even after many, multiple viewings of this version lo, these 22 years since its unveiling in 1983.

Character Artist Flemming Halby is one of the best Drosselmeiers around. He infuses every moment and gesture with meaning and really helps make the Party Scene not just a pleasant thing to have to patiently sit through while we wait for the “real” dancing to begin. While practiced, he nevertheless makes his reading of his character seem spontaneous. It’s also interesting to note how carefully he did each bit.

Nakamura and Stanton were the couple of the evening. She has prodigious technique and, coupling that with an acting ability that has increased in authority, made for a very strong interpretation of Stowell’s choreographic vision for this part. Stanton does everything with his whole artistic being and this was clear in his interpretation from the moment he rose from the floor following the Battle Scene all the way through to near the end of Act II when he’s carried away by the magic sailboat, leaving poor Clara to confront her worst nightmare, revealed in the form of the Pasha/Drosselmeier.

A marvelously tall stem herself, Lallone’s Flora was the bud in full blossom – the radiant cheer of midday glory. She moves the way I like to move and see: big and full – as if the stage could hardly contain the steps and patterns. She really whipped off the fouettés and pirouettes and with all of the demands of this part she seemed to have energy to spare. Stowell’s inventive use of the corps and his integration of this solo part is one of his best creations. The seven-plus minutes just flow along and seem just right. My only long-time choreographic wish would be to have Flora to jump or fold down to floor and then pop up or rise to a standing or rélevé pose at the end, rather than to quickly step into place with no change of level. Probably something that will never change, yet it’s something that my eye finds itself expecting.

Lallone is an artist of the first rank and since we’re on the wish list kick, I’d like to lobby to see her do Odette/Odile someday. Why not, I ask myself!? Surely there are a couple of equally tall stemmed men who would fill the Siegfried partnering opportunity well.

Lastly, I was pleased to see – as is past and apparently current practice – those in the corps and soloists being given dancing opportunities that allowed them to shine. At this performance it was great to see the cheerful Maria Chapman as the Ballerina Doll, for example.

The PNB Orchestra sounded great and were under the musical baton of Alan Dameron. For many years PNB has used two female singers instead of a boys chorus for the end of the Snow Scene, and it’s a move I can really applaud. Having a boys chorus would be a logistical challenge for 40 performances and I’ve come to like hearing this “instrumentation.” They are also used in the Party Scene for one of the unique features of this production which is the masque to Mozart where Clara sees her Prologue/Overture nightmare being acted out. I’ve gotten so used to this insertion that now, when I see other productions far and near, I find myself expecting to hear Mozart at this juncture.

PNB’s production is one over which much ink has been spilled and rightly so. My colleagues, friends and I look forward to future viewings.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Dec 27, 2005 3:58 pm ]
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Northwest Asian Weekly profiles PNB Principal Kaori Nakamura:

NW Asian Weekly

Author:  Matthew [ Sun Jan 01, 2006 10:32 pm ]
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What always impresses me about PNBs Nutcracker is the amount of energy the dancers display even at the end of the performances. I went to a matinee performance the day after Christmas, and the dancers were every bit as energetic as they were on opening night, at least on stage. I wish them all a happy holidays as they get rested prior to preparing for their February performances!

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