On Stage: The Washington Ballet: Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker

She Said: The Nutcracker

I have loved The Nutcracker since I was 8 years old. My father took me to see it when I was a young girl and I thought it was thrilling and beautiful. It’s an important tradition to watch it at least once a Christmas with RJ. Just hearing the first strains of the music fill me with holiday memories. I love the story, the dancing people from all nations and the beautiful music.  Every holiday should be filled with music and dancing and The Washington Ballet’s production of  Septime Webre’s  The Nutcracker is the ultimate holiday treat for the D.C. area.

One the things that I think is most remarkable about the production is that no matter how well one may know the story of The Nutcracker this production is still able to artfully surprise and awe the audience. I love the D.C. area and I found all the Washingtonian touches to the story clever and endearing. It was exciting to find all the references the in the scenery, costumes and props were as well. Those of us who live in the DC area are privileged to live in an area that is not only a melting pot, but also an area of profound beauty and history.  Septime Webre, along with the creative team created a new world for dreamers in their artful depiction of Georgetown and Springtime.

The sets are beautiful. Peter Horne created a world that is idealized, yet still familiar to D.C. locals.  I want a Georgetown home with all the grandeur of the home of Clara and her family. Springtime had the perfect colors; it was almost possible to feel the breeze blowing off of the Potomac. I enjoyed the treat of looking for local landmarks in each set!

The cast is enormous and enormously talented. Emily Eisert was a charming Clara and Tamas Krizsa was a dashing Nutcracker. Maki Onuki seemed to have a bit of an off night when we saw the performance. She seemed a bit slow and wobbly, but was still an elegant Sugar Plum Fairy. Emily Ellis was absolutely stunning as the Snow Queen, and along with Jared Nelson performed artfully to my favorite piece of music from the evening. The children enhanced every scene they were present in. I simply do not have time to list all the ways that they were charming! My biggest problem with the performance was that of the “Anacostia Indian” dancers. I am of Native American descent and I find it very offensive when people over-sexualize (e.g. skimpy costumes, dancing…) my ancestors. I didn’t like how revealing the costumes were or how sensuous the dancing was. I don’t think it’s right to sexualize people’s culture and this was truly the biggest blot on the performance for me.

The costumes, designed by Judanna Lynn, were absolutely stunning! I was literally in open-mouthed awe during the Christmas party at the beginning. The ladies dresses were each so lovely it was impossible to pick a favorite. I adored how the gentlemen’s costumes well-represented different ethnicities. The little girl’s dresses were pure confections, complete with gorgeous bustles. I audibly cooed several times in the visit to Springtime. The cherry blossom costumes were so dreamy I could I almost smell the perfume of the blossoms. The frontier girl’s costumes and the cardinals were also especially striking.

As far as the overall experience in the Warner Theatre my one complaint is that the lobby is too small. People were very rough and it was oppressively crowded during intermission and when leaving theatre. But, it’s a beautiful space! I was also very happy that they had cotton candy and it was pink! They were also selling a wonderful assortment of Nutcracker memorabilia. We always buy a new ornament for our tree, so yes I did buy a little pink Clara nutcracker. I like souvenirs!

This is the best version of The Nutcracker that I have ever seen. It was sweet, charming, and beautifully performed.  The show has a few minor faults, but these are far overshadowed by the beauty and uniqueness of the world created for the audience. It is beyond delightful to see the beautiful world of The Nutcracker in context of DC,and this production will renew audience members, both old and young, with the seasonal joy of  parties and dreams.

Kari’s Rating- 8

Center L. to R.: Maki Onuki ( Snoq Queen), Jonathan Jordan (Snow King), Alber Gordon (The Nutcracker Prince) and Lilly Casscells (Clara) in the Washington Ballet's production of Septime Webre's The Nutcracker.” Photo by Paul Zambrana.

Center L. to R.: Maki Onuki ( Snoq Queen), Jonathan Jordan (Snow King), Alber Gordon (The Nutcracker Prince) and Lilly Casscells (Clara) in the Washington Ballet’s production of Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker.” Photo by Paul Zambrana.

Center: Morgann Rose (Dew Drop Fairy) in The Washing Ballet’s production of Septime Webre’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Paul Zambrana

Center: Morgann Rose (Dew Drop Fairy) in The Washing Ballet’s production of Septime Webre’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Paul Zambrana

He Said: The Nutcracker

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Even though I love plays and musicals, it’s hard for me to connect with ballet.  The lack of dialogue or singing sometimes makes it very hard to follow the story for me.  The Nutcracker is different.  The story is simple and festive and easy to follow, and it still gives plenty of room for the dancers to shine.  This new interpretation put on by The Washington Ballet puts a local twist on this classic that still captures all of joy of the original.

This version takes place in a Georgetown home in the 1800’s and features all kinds of Americana throughout.  There are cool appearances by Frederick Douglas, Benjamin Franklin, and Betsy Ross.  The Nutcracker is very much George Washington and the Rat King is clearly George III.  There are lots of other Easter eggs in there that I won’t ruin for you.

The technical elements of this show were amazing.  The costumes popped with luscious color.  The sets were well thought out.  The result is an amazing, period accurate spectacle for the eyes.  There were a few kids’ costumes that were just too cute for words.  One neat part of the set I kept coming back was the off-stage seating area for Clara and the Prince, and a few other guests as well.  I do wish they had been able to have live music though.

The dancing overall was very impressive.  Especially breath taking was Brooklyn Mack as the frontiersman and the character of Grandma Barnum (traditionally Grandma Ginger, who may not have had much to work with, but really held your attention). There were even a couple of great acting performances.  I can’t say enough good things about Luis Torres as Drosselmeyer.  Without a lot of tools he portrayed his character to a tee.  Zachary Hackstock’s character portrayal of Grandfather is also exceptional.  He actually performed two different characters that night.  While I didn’t understand the purpose of his Tom Cat in the number with the cardinals, it was quite a different performance than his Grandfather.

The one number that I didn’t like was the Anacostian dance.  This adaptation of the Arabian coffee scene bordered on vulgar.  This number traditionally is too sexual, but here they amp that up with the costumes and the choreography.  The choreography was also too Eastern.  Native Americans had a very different sense of movement than Indians.

It was a very enjoyable evening spent with the performing arts!

RJ Rating- 9


Two complimentary media tickets were provided by The Washington Ballet for this post.