REVIEW: “The Nutcracker” – Christmas, cheer, and chestnut-crackin’
TFM Review: The Nutcracker by Pia de Ungria
Photos by: Erica Feliz Marquez-Jacinto
And there was nothing C-grade about it. The Philippine Ballet Theatre is staging The Nutcracker, one of the most popular and familiar ballet pieces, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Theater from November 13-15; and if the technical dance rehearsal is any indication of what’s in store, then be prepared for the (pre-Christmas) celebration of your life.
Originally choreographed by the great Marius Petipa, The Nutcracker tells the magical story of Clara’s adventure with the Nutcracker Prince: from defeating the army of mice and their King, to their journey in the land of sweets. Set at Christmastime, no other ballet could probably set the mood for the Holidays more than The Nutcracker can.
Returning to dance with the Philippine Ballet Theatre is Joseph Phillips, who previously graced the company in their production of Don Quixote. Dubbed as the Golden Boy of Ballet, Joseph Phillips has won numerous gold medals, and is one of the only two American ballet danseurs who was made principal dancer in Russia. Currently taking on multiple roles as part of the Mariinsky Ballet Company, Phillips lends his talent to dance as the Nutcracker Prince in PBT’s production.
Philippine Ballet Theatre’s staging of The Nutcracker was an A-grade production, and it was nothing short of delightful. The stage was adorned with vibrant colors and elaborate stage props that assuredly proclaimed Christmas – from the festive house with its giant Christmas tree, and the first-ever inclusion of the impressive Mother Ginger during the first act, to the dreamy, cotton candy-like atmosphere of the second act. All these were intensified with the spectacular display of lighting: balanced perfectly with warmth and coolness as each scene progressed, at times becoming multihued and deliciously candied.
Rising above the magnificent display of lights and stage props were the dancers themselves. Joseph Phillips was precision personified as he executed the rigorous movements required of the Nutcracker Prince. He was a noble tree in command of the movements of his own branches and leaves. Regine Magbitang as Clara was as delicate as a piece of taffeta being commanded by the soft musical notes thrown in the air. Lobreza Pimentel as the Sugar Plum Fairy was rather queenly – she was a majestic and assured, and moved with the precision of a surgeon. One of the scenes that stood out was the waltz of the snowflakes. The dancers were beyond breathtaking, as they melted out of their ballerina selves and formed into true snowflakes joyously dancing against the winter wind. They were well-formed, geometrical snow crystals that moved like they were being blown capriciously off, but there was nothing random in their flurry.
The production also featured numerous ballet students from leading area ballet schools, all of whom were impressive; it gives us the reassurance that the next breed of ballet dancers are on the right track. Some of them showed such endearing level of comfort and confidence on stage that can easily propel them to professional status years from now.
Overall, the Nutcracker was everything it should be. It was gloriously festive. All it lacked were chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and the smell of pine nipping at your nose, and you’d be transported to their kind of Christmas.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?