ARTS: Review of Tulsa Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

 Toy soldiers and mice face off in the battle scene from Tulsa Ballet's "The Nutcracker." JOEY JOHNSON/for the Tulsa World

Toy soldiers and mice face off in the battle scene from Tulsa Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” JOEY JOHNSON/for the Tulsa World

By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer

I think it’s safe to say that, 13 years after its debut, Tulsa Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is finally in its finished form.

 

Artistic director Marcello Angelini, who created this unique take on the holiday classic in 2003, has almost every year made alternations to the ballet.

Some of have been major, such as changing the opening sequence from a ballet class at the Paris Opera to the more traditional family Christmas party. Other changes have been more subtle — tweaking the tempo of the music to emphasize a certain element in the choreography.

But all these changes have served one purpose — to make this ever-popular ballet even better, more focused in its storytelling, more dazzling in its dancing.

And when this ballet is performed with the ardor and artistry that the Tulsa Ballet company demonstrated at Friday’s performance at the Tulsa PAC, then that oft-heard phrase about “the magic of ‘The Nutcracker’” doesn’t seem like hype.

Tulsa Ballet’s dancers were truly on Friday night, delivering individual and collective performances of a quality that made this “Nutcracker” one of the best I’ve seen — and trust me, I’ve seen a bunch of good performances of this ballet.

All just seemed to be on top of their games, from the principal dancers to the children of the newly choreographed scene to the “March of the Presents” section of Tchaikovsky’s music.

Hyonjun Rhee as Charles handled the bravura opening solo — an almost mad dash around the stage that incorporates a wealth of choreographic devices — with deceptive ease and winning style, while Youhee Son, as the adult version of the story’s main character Marie, conveyed a sense of childlike wonder while performing the slow solo to the “Sugar Plum Fairy” music, and in the ecstatic pas de deux with Rhee.

Beatrice Sebelin, Regina Montgomery, Andres Figueroa and Rodrigo Hermesmeyer made a flashy, fiery foursome in the Spanish. Hibiki Higuchi and Mario Gaglione convincingly crossed fighting sticks in the Chinese, while Cavan Conley danced the rousing Russian dance very well.

Diana Gomez’s natural flexibility was put to dazzling use as she flowed in, around and through the partnering of Chandler Proctor, Shigeyuki Kondo and Daniel van de Laar in the Arabian.

Madalina Stoica was a lovely Flowers Maid of Honor, Maine Kawashima and Alberto Penalver brought a touch of adult class to clowning children under Mother Ginger’s voluminous skirts, Arman Zayzan embodied the evil Mouse King, and Alfonso Martin gave the character of Drosselmeyer a mix of severity and playfulness.

Adelya Gosmanova was a wonderfully composed Young Marie, while Diego Enriquez as Fritz enjoyed getting into as much mischief as possible. And the comic interactions of Dan McGeehan as the Butler and Alexandra Bergman as the Housekeeper continue to be one of the highlights of this ballet.

Peter Stafford Wilson deftly led the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, supporting the onstage action with sharp tempi and lush playing from the musicians.