San Francisco, California - San Francisco Ballet
Nutcracker by the Bay; A Landmark Ballet
December 2, 2005 - By Brad Maxwell
San Francisco, California -- A city full of famous landmarks like the Golden Gate, Cable-cars, and Fisherman's Wharf. A city full of old and historic
hillside communities overlooking the sea. The rush is on in this West Coast city to see The Nutcracker by the Bay. San Francisco's new Landmark Ballet.
The San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker is new; now in its second year. It's a Nutcracker that is clearly, one of the best. A very classical Nutcracker that takes you through
Clara's holiday evening filled with glamorous and colorful costumes, amazing sets and some spectacular choreography by Helgi Tomasson. This Nutcracker
blends a turn of the century style with a San Francisco flare to present a Nutcracker that defines the holiday. You can put the lights up on the house,
you can put a tree up in the den, but it's just not Christmas until you've traveled to the magical place The San Francisco Ballet takes you.
The Party Scene opens with Drosselmeyer working in his toy and clock shop finishing up Clara's Nutcracker. Drosselmeyer takes the Nutcracker and
makes his way down a busy neighborhood street on a hill with tall San Francisco-like homes. The scene transitions inside the Stalbaums home with a mirror
mantel fireplace, a large cherry china cabinet and a grand winding staircase in the back. A beautifully Decorated room, that looks just like a Christmas
card. The very magical Drosselmeyer, played by Ashley Wheater, dressed in his purple and black cape, performs magic for the guests including the
levitation of a walking cane that he swiped from grandfather - leaving him falling to the couch. A superb performance of a classic Drosselmeyer
complete with eye patch and grey hair. As the party ends, Drosselmeyer places the Nutcracker right next to the fireplace and the Stalbaums exit up the winding staircase.
Clara sneaks down the staircase and falls asleep on the chase lounge. As she dreams, the tree grows
and is surrounded by stacks of giant gifts. As the fireplace grows tall, so does the Nutcracker, standing next to the fire place, right where
Drosselmeyer left it. Mice begin crawling up over the stacks of gifts and converging near the fireplace. Then the giant china cabinet door opens, like a draw bridge, and out charge the soldiers, soon to
be reinforced by cavalry and a cannon. The battle ends when the soldiers send the Mouse King to its withering death using a giant mouse trap. Drosselmeyer appears
and removes the Nutcracker's head to reveal the prince, who dances with Clara. A spectacular Battle Scene!
The Snow Scene sparkles with a stage framed square with glistening white tree branches presenting a contemporary setting. The Snow King
(Ruben Martin) and Queen (Yuan Yuan Tan) arrive on a beautiful sleigh pulled by four dancers dressed as white snow horses with crystal heads. Sixteen
Snowflake dancers grace the stage in what begins as a light snow and builds into swirling blizzard. Tomasson choreographs the Snow Scene with
exciting originality. The Snowflakes dance in groups of flurries, filling the stage then softly floating and circling into a swirling storm. Simply breathtaking.
Act II opens to a garden filled with dancing young butterflies, dragonflies and ladybugs. Clara and the
Prince arrive, in the sleigh pulled by the snow horses, and are welcomed by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Muriel Maffre). The divertissements are very traditional.
Five Spanish - three men in black and two women in white, dancing under two giant black fans. For the Arabian dance, two men in feathered hats carry out
a giant gold lamp, which they rub, calling out the beautiful genie. The Chinese dancer shared the stage with a large red parade tiger carried by five
dancers. Three beautiful pink and blue Mirlitons perform a ribbon dance. The Russians are always a favorite, jumping out of three Faberge-like eggs.
Then Madame Du Cirque, in her Big Top dress, watches as her children and a lively bear dance.
The Waltz of Flowers is set with a garden backdrop with sixteen dancers in colorful costumes of giant size petals making each skirt look as if it were a
beautiful flower. The Flowers were joined by the
Sugar Plum Fairy who danced solo and then also as part of the garden. The Flowers would join as bouquets and then seeming bloom, open and close.
And then bloom around the Sugar Plum Fairy as she centered the bouquet.
The Grand Pas de Deux is danced by the talented Tina Leblanc and Gonzalo Garcia. These two
performers created a magical pair, graceful and deliberate, with spectacular lifts, stunning pirouettes and amazing leaps. Truly -- a superb performance.