GO Arts: Stowell/Sendak “Nutcracker” still gorgeous at Pacific Northwest Ballet after 30 years

Tacoma News TribuneDecember 17, 2013 

Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" runs through end of December at McCaw Hall, Seattle.

ANGELA STIRLING — Courtesy photo

For South Sound families wanting to see “The Nutcracker,” it’s always a big decision: where to go? If you have friends or family in a local studio production, of course you’ll go to see them. But otherwise you have a choice – Tacoma or Olympia, where it’s cheaper, quicker and far more intimate inside the theater, or Seattle, where you’ll pay a lot more to get exquisite, professional dancing and an enormous set by the late illustrator Maurice Sendak.

The choice is yours, but one thing stands out at Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet – even after 30 years of the Sendak production with reimagined choreography by Kent Stowell, this “Nutcracker” still thrills, from the so-cute Chinese tiger in red ribbons to the arching peacock and the leaping dolphins.

And the dancing is polished – though not all casting is equal (check the website for casting details for each performance). At one Sunday matinee, young Clara was played by Nina Adams, who gave a rather over-the-top rendition of a fussy young girl. Her mischievous brother Fritz (Jack Neeleman) was more natural, but still had the stilted, over-rehearsed look all the PNB kids tend to get. As Drosselmeyer, guest artist Uko Gorter returns with a wild flair that makes the magician-godfather into a boy who never grew up.

Highlights of that cast include a band of very funny mouse warriors, a beautifully precise and emotive Commedia trio (Sarah Pasch, Andrew Bartee, Chelsea Adomaitis), and a Chinese tiger with all the cuteness of your favorite puppy (Chandler Sharp). As the Peacock in the Arabian dance, Brittany Reid was stiff rather than undulating, but as grown-up Clara Laura Tisserand epitomized willowy grace and articulation, though her Prince (Karel Cruz) offered effortless leaps rather than passion.

As always, it’s a pleasure to hear the ballet orchestra (called one of the country’s best by the New York Times) and singers Maria Mannisto and Melissa Plagemann made a sweet duo in the snow scene.

If you’re looking for a Sugar Plum Fairy, you won’t find it at PNB. Nor will you find the creative Prequel act just premiered at Tacoma City Ballet. But if you love the tree that keeps growing, mice that channel Monty Python, and a superb candy-pastel set that opens and closes like a magic treasure box and shoots dolphins into the air you’ll still get a thrill from PNB’s “Nutcracker,” even after 30 years.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker” runs 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 21, 23; 2 p.m. Dec. 20, 21, 23, 24; 1 p.m. Dec. 22, 26, 28, 29; 5:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 26, 27, 28. Tickets $25-$140. McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St., Seattle. 206-441-2424, pnb.org 

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 rosemary.ponnekanti@thenewstribune.com

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