The Magic of Milwaukee Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
I needed The Nutcracker this year. I laughed and teared up much more than in any of the many times I’ve seen this production. I worry every day now for our country and our planet. It was healing to feel my spirit soar with the beauty of Tchaikovsky’s score and to take heart from the wit and warmth of Michael Pink’s production.
The show is about two families. The make-believe one of Act One has two daughters and a son, each moody in their own ways. We meet them at a family Christmas party to which a toy maker and his nephew are invited. The toy maker, it turns out, is a sorcerer. His spells allow all three children to visit a dream world where they find their different joys. The second family, the real one, is the company of dancers. You see and feel it in the free and multi-layered ways they play with and support each other. The dreamland of the ballet is their land. The music is crucial—from the toy music box overture to the aching grand pas de deux, it embodies great chunks of the sublime—so add conductor Pasquale Laurino, the Milwaukee Children’s Choir and the superb Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. Add the team of sorcerers who designed this production. Add all the children in the cast and the welcoming Marcus Center staff. To attend The Nutcracker is to feel part of a large, generous community. It’s not just for kids.
The dream world is an international dance world. To bring an unhappy boy there and to have him blossom is to me Pink’s loveliest, most generous innovation to the Nutcracker story. And by conceiving the girl child of the source tale as sisters, he lets the child remain unabashedly childlike while her older sister explores the edges of adulthood. Nicole Teague and Barry Molina couldn’t have been better as the kids. As the older sister, Marize Fumero used every nano-second of her music to develop each movement to its fullest. Davit Hovhannisyan can probably dance the difficult role of her cavalier in his sleep by now which made his performance even more appealing.
The show lives in countless details, many invented by the dancers, seemingly improvised. The whole show felt fresh and perfectly unified. David Grill’s lighting looked especially gorgeous. Cheers to every dancer and a special welcome to the excellent newcomers.