The Miami City Ballet returns to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. It is a pleasure to experience the magic of The Nutcracker again after the cancellation of last year’s performances due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
Balanchine’s Nutcracker has become a holiday favorite since its debut with the New York City Ballet in 1954.
Miami City Ballet has performed Balanchine’s Nutcracker for over twenty years now. In 2017, Lourdes Lopez, artistic director of Miami City Ballet, unveiled a Nutcracker with new sets and costumes by Cuban- American artistic couple Isabel and Ruben Toledo. The changes reflect Miami’s tropical environment with sherbet infused colors. The Toledo’s sets and costumes look as fresh and as bright as they did in 2017.
The audience attending last Saturday’s matinee performance was filled with little girls dressed in an array of colorful tulle skirts and sparkling shoes. Their outfits were overshadowed by their high spirits and enthusiasm. After intermission, it was a joy to watch them return to their seats hugging packages containing nutcracker dolls.
Among one of the changes made to the Nutcracker in 2017 was the addition of projections by Wendall K. Harrington during Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker overture. Harrington images are of a town covered in snow, setting the stage for the interior of the Stahlbaum house where guests are arriving for a Christmas party.
Some of the toys entertaining the party guests are Columbine (Ella Titus) and Harlequin (Alex Manning). Dressed in brightly colored costumes, they gave spirited performances as did Shimon Ito as the toy soldier. His performance was precise and sharp especially in the toy soldier’s signature stance.
As always, the transformations which occur in Act 1 were stirring. The growth of the Christmas tree ( accompanied by some of Tchaikovsky’s most beautiful music ) was a wonder to behold. “It’s all in the tree,” Balanchine reportedly said.
Act II opened on a tropical-themed Land of Sweets with the scenery consisting of palm trees, sweets and a welcoming pineapple crown. Hannah Fischer as the Sugarplum Fairy was enchanting. The Angels, danced by children wearing masks, held miniature Christmas trees as they glided across the stage in serene beauty.
The Marzipan Shepardesses wore tutus in pink and aqua which highlighted the Miami themed scenery. Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles were a favorite of the children in the audience. Her oversized aqua skirt lifted to reveal children in pink and blue who delighted the audience with their antics. The Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier ( Cameron Catazaro ) gave an impressive performance in their pas de deux and individual solos.
Miami City Ballet’s rendition of Balanchine’s Nutcracker retains his iconic choreography while creating a strong sense of place. Miami does not have the temperatures which are usually linked to this time of year, but the Miami City Ballet has added sunshine to a Christmas favorite.