Resplendent sets? Professional dancers? Live orchestra? Local kids?
If you want to see “The Nutcracker” this holiday season, you have to choose from a handful of local productions, each with its own pros and cons. Maybe you love the glitz and glamour of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet, or maybe you’d prefer the lower prices and easier commute of a Tacoma show. Maybe you love hearing Tchaikovsky’s famous score played by a live orchestra and chorus, or maybe you have little kids who need a shorter version in a more casual space. Whichever way you go, there’s plenty of choice in our Puget Sound “Nutcracker” round-up, presented here in order of opening date.
Pacific Northwest Ballet
This is the last year to see the signature Stowell-Sendak production before it retires after 32 years. With virtuosic, innovative choreography by PNB founding artistic director Kent Stowell (think anguished peacocks and galumphing tigers) and the late children’s book illustrator and author Maurice Sendak (candy-pastel tints, “wild thing” creatures, and adorable dolphin-cresting waves), the PNB “Nutcracker” is a visual treat. Add marvelous playing by the PNB orchestra, high-level dancing, a long run and the kind of glamour you can only get at McCaw Hall, and you have a recipe for success.
The big downsides: Ticket prices and the roadwork-clogged Mercer traffic corridor. Trust us, you are going to want to leave home at least two hours before you think you need to. Or more. Think about taking public transportation, or driving through downtown instead.
Tacoma City Ballet
The only production in Tacoma to use live musicians, the TCB “Nutcracker” this year features members of the Tacoma Symphony for the first time in 12 years, conducted by their new director Sarah Ioannides. And if you didn’t catch the debut of TCB’s brand-new prologue “The Tale of the Hard Nut” last year, you’re in for a delightful session of sparkling eye-candy, with jewel-tone costumes and a plot that explains all the magical events of the main story – which TCB dances using the original 19th-century Russian choreography.
Set the whole thing in the baroque elegance of the Pantages (a box, anyone?) and you have all the glamour with none of the driving hassles.
Dance Theatre Northwest
Geared to families, with free parking and a handicapped-accessible theater, Dance Theatre Northwest’s “Nutcracker,” directed by Melanie Kirk-Stauffer, features dancers Chhay Mam, Lauren Trodahl, Oceana Thunder, Allison Zakharov and Amelia Arial, with sets and chocolate-box costumes updated from last year. It’s also the only full “Nutcracker” on Tacoma’s south side this yea whileWashington Contemporary Ballet awaits renovations in its new space.
Tacoma Performing Dance Company
Ten years after Jason Lee students Isaiah Sumler and Vimala Jeffrey Howe partnered in Tacoma Performing Dance Company’s annual “Nutcracker,” the two young Tacoma dancers are back, having gained their professional chops. Howe has been a company member of Eugene Ballet, Ballet Victoria and San Jose Ballet, while Sumler has danced with Company C and Tucson Ballet. Supported by TPD members (senior students at the Jo Emery dance school), the two friends will perform the Clara-Prince partnership to a home crowd.
If you’d rather have your “Nutcracker” in small bites mixed up with other holiday treats, then check out the Charisma School of Dance Holiday Extravaganza show. You’ll see favorite dances from “The Nutcracker,” plus seasonal favorites, holiday comedy dances, and styles from ballet to tap, lyrical, jazz, hip hop and Broadway. It’s also a way of supporting this Lakewood-based company.