Hilarious death and men in drag—for kids
Once you get past the Christmas trimmings, The Nutcracker is a pretty straight-up dream-fantasy, complete with tasty food that dances. Fortunately, that makes it work well for a seasonal treat, since the holidays are more wishful thinking than anything else, and since the way to make this time of year take on value is to emphasize both children and child-like wonder, which The Nutcracker has to no end.
The Sacramento Ballet celebrates artistic director Ron Cunningham’s 20th anniversary with the company by staging a note-perfect, child-friendly production of the one ballet almost everyone (now including this critic) has seen. The real joy of the show—at least once the Mouse King is safely dispatched by the Nutcracker (and completes his hilarious death scene)—is as much in the delighted gasps of first-time viewers at each bit of ballet magic as it is in the fine dancing of Sac Ballet’s corps.
And what’s not to love about small children—dressed in Victorian finery or costumed as everything from baby mice to gingerbread decorations to flowers—dancing away? Bits of humor, such as Nolan T’Sani’s scare-drag performance as Mother Ginger and candy children hidden beneath an incredibly wide hoop skirt, break up some breathtakingly athletic dancing by the corps.
And Cunningham’s turn as the slightly creepy Dr. Drosselmeyer is a worthy anniversary performance. The magic remains intact, and the inclusion of a boy in a wheelchair onstage for the Christmas party is proof positive that not only does The Nutcracker magic work for everyone, but we’re all capable of dancing.