Michael Pink’s The Nutcracker
What a night for the Tannenbaum children! The toymaker Drosselmeyer fashions not only toys, but also an evening of magic for Marie, Fritz, and Clara (and the audience) in the Milwaukee Ballet’s presentation of Michael Pink’s The Nutcracker. This Milwaukee holiday tradition opened December 12 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Pink’s version differs from the classic E.T.A. Hoffman book that was translated into a full-length ballet through the incomparable music of Tchaikovsky’s enduring score. In Pink’s retelling, Clara still receives the present of a nutcracker on Christmas Eve, but she becomes only one-third of the trio who travel to the Land of Sweets. Marie, her older sister, and Fritz, her rambunctious brother, accompany her on this surreal journey where “The Nutcracker” transforms into Drosselmeyer’s nephew, Karl. Karl falls in love with Marie as the story unfolds while a humorous sibling rivalry flares up between Fritz and Clara. The romantic story of Clara and her nutcracker prince has been transferred to Marie and Karl, including the pas de deux in the closing minutes.
Throughout this family-themed evening, Drosselmeyer liberally sprinkles his silver fairy dust over the show, and the evening’s confections abound with lavish sets, glittering costumes and lively dances that stir the audience with visual delight including the charming Tannenbaum home where the Christmas Tree mysteriously grows and the Mouse King arrives for the midnight battle in the first act. To end this entrancing act, the final scene features the Snow Queen, the delicate Jeanette Marie Hanley, stepping through the frosty blue and white costumed ensemble while snow falls like shimmering powder sugar on the stage. With a sense of seasonal wonder, the Queen’s tutu and the snowflake’s gowns glisten through the entire sequence.
When the second act opens, Karl and the Tannenbaum children arrive in the Land of Sweets to a carousel of ethnic dancers riding atop their corresponding animals. From then on the ballet dancing entertains Fritz and Marie, along with the theater, although the intricate technical ability of the choreography gives way to allow for more children from the Milwaukee Ballet School to appear in the production. This is incidental unless an original production of The Nutcracker lingers in memory. Incorporating more children into the ballet cast adds a unique element and focuses on these fanciful moments so important to holiday traditions and creates abundant sugar plum dreams for all that attend.
Luz San Miguel (Clara) and Tatiana Jouravel (Marie) add lovely touches to the Tannenbaum sisters, their fondness apparent through this story line while Ryan Martin (Drosselmeyer) dusts the night with his own ballet magic. Add in David Gill’s spectacular lighting effects while Pasquale Laurino guest conducts Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra members and The Milwaukee Ballet concludes in perfecting this holiday night of The Nutcracker. Both the young and the young at heart will leave the theater wishing Drosselmeyer might appear one December evening with this enchanting magic at their own front doors. VS
The Milwaukee Ballet presents Michael Pink’s The Nutcracker at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through December 28. milwaukeeballet.org or 414-902-2103.