Lucien’s Review: The Nutcracker (Anchorage Concert Association)

Anchorage BalletWhen one of my favorite girly-mates posed the idea of going to this to me, I was very excited.  I haven’t gotten to see this live since I was a little kid.  Having gotten to go again, all my love of this suite came right back.  I first heard and saw this as interpreted by Disney’s Fantasia, which is my second-favorite film of all time.  Ever since then, I have been in love with the music and wanting to re-see the suite live.  Tonight was my chance, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

I don’t imagine I have to explain the plot of this to all of you.  I will anyway just to follow the formula, but anyone who doesn’t know what this is should be smacked.  Anyway, the story follows a young girl who is given a nutcracker by a mysterious toymaker.  That night, she goes to sleep with it, only to have it come to life and go with her on a journey to see what her subconscious can create.

Before I gush about the things I like, I do have a couple of nit-picky little complaints.  Don’t worry, I’ll be nice.  The first was these little rats with glowing eyes that are built onto remote-controlled cars.  They are cute, but still, it takes you out of the moment when you hear the sound that a remote-controlled car makes when they run.  It was a brief humorous moment that was a little annoying.

The next thing was a segment during the last part of the third act, where there are the dancing snowflakes.  This will just involved the musical portion.  There was this part of that where there were vocals, and they were pretty bad.  It was so obvious that they were recorded, so when you have live music playing and it’s beautiful, to hear a recording of vocals come on, it takes you out of the moment.  I did still enjoy that part, but I couldn’t get past that vocal section.  That’s all the negatives.

Now we get to what I thought of the rest.  First-off, the set designs were gorgeous!  My personal favorite was the Christmas tree.  They had lights running through it and the use of light and color with it always popped.  But the rest of the sets were no slouches.  With the perfect lighting for each set, every single one of them popped.  They were amazing to look at.  The props were also well-done, with the cake that was constantly tipping over being over-the-top and cartoon-y in a really fun way.

The costumes for the characters were a lot of fun.  The ones that people are most likely talking about are the Nutcracker itself and the people outside the dream, but for me, none of those make my list of favorites.  The ones I liked best were the ones for the Spanish and Arabian dancers and the toymaker.  There was also this cute little costume for the girl who played the main character’s dog, Minnie the Poodle. The costume was so adorable and ridiculous that you couldn’t help but like it.  So were the costumes for the poodle dancers later on.  Then there were these completely cute little chicken costumes for the children playing as the chicks of a giant chicken.  That got a lot of “awww’s” from the audience.

Next up there is the music.  I don’t think I have to tell you that it was amazing.  Aside from the out-of-place vocals, the members of the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra gave it their all and it was beautiful.  The songs that I loved from one of my favorite films sounded even better in real life.  My personal favorites were the parts with the Chinese Tea Dancers and the Arabian Coffee Dancers.  There were some sections that I thought were done better than others, but I won’t say for a second that a single note was wasted.  It was all awesome to listen to.

But now, we come to the most important category.  The thing that makes or breaks any ballet – the dancing.  The only nit-pick I have with this was the fight choreography with the duel between the Nutcracker and the Rat King.  But it’s ballet.  You take what you get.  I don’t expect every fight in everything to be like Lord of the Rings.  Aside from that, this was awesome!  Act II was by far the best of the bunch.  My favorite sections were the ones with the Arabian dancers and the Russian dancers.  Damn if they didn’t put in one hell of a performance.  Now, a caveat to the Arabian performance is that, as the girly-mate I went to see this with pointed out, if you are in front of them as they perform, it works best.  But that’s not to say that any part of their performance slouches.  And don’t let me sell the rest of the hard work that these dancers put in short by not having their bits be among my favorites.  The part with the dancing poodles was hilarious.  The guy they had as the lead poodle was just awesome.  He clearly was loving every minute of that absurdity.  To each and every person of the Cincinnati Ballet Company (I think I got that right), you did an amazing job.

So, we come to the last portion.  This was am awesome night.  I got to have some good company, which was nice.  I’ve been missing this girly-mate.  I had wanted to see this for a long time and damned if it didn’t deliver.  Well-done, dancers.  You all deserve the accolades.  There are some gripes, and since I’m a nit-picker, I can’t not address them, but don’t worry.  Your score will be good.

Final Verdict:
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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