Houston Ballet

 

Houston, Texas - Houston Ballet

Nutcracker with a Texas-Size Helping of Fun

November 24, 2006 - By Brad Maxwell

Houston, Texas -- In a state known for being big, Houston is bigger than some small states.  Not only is Houston big in size, but big in the oil business and our efforts to expand life into space; home to NASA's Johnson Space Center. Full of big colleges, big medical centers and big shopping gallerias, it's no surprise that Houston is also home to one of our biggest holiday ballets: The Houston Ballet's Nutcracker at the Wortham Center.artists-of-HB001b

All the best Nutcrackers have something special to make them stand out above the rest, and this is certainly true of The Houston Ballet's Nutcracker.  Take a Texas-size helping of comedy, blend it with talented world class dancers and you have a ballet that charms the Lone-Star State.  While most Nutcrackers incorporate comedy into the mouse versus soldier fight scene in Act I and the giant Mother Ginger with her children under skirt in Act II. The Houston Ballet kicks it up a notch and provides this Texas town with some huge holiday fun by  incorporating the spirit of laughter throughout the entire ballet.

The curtain opens to a grand and colorful wood beamed parlor complete with a large fireplace and stairway on the right, the guests arrive and the fun begins.  The mischievous Fritz starts his tirade by playing keep-away from Clara, presents a dead rat in a gift box, starts shooting the guests with a popgun and leading his gang of friends to attack the party girls.  However, Fritz's antics are often overshadowed by the more comedic groups in the scene; the old folks and the funny folks. Grandpa, grandma and grandma's friend all provide laugh-out-load mini-skits, putting on spectacles to recognize each other and then creeping slowing across the stage to greet and dance an old-timers dance.  Grandpa provides a solo act by giving away beer to the kids, shooting the popgun, hitting on the maid and kicking off his shoes halfway across the stage.  And then there's the funny folks.  The plump in the middle twiddle-dee-ish family with red hair and Indian headdresses who clown their way through the scene.  This is clearly the funniest party scene ever!  

The snow scene opens to a wintery white forest with a light falling snow and a misty blanket covering the floor.  The talented Nutcracker Prince (Rolando Sarabia) takes center stage with the Snow Queen (Sara Webb) to present a Pas de Duex that's simply breathtaking.  It's so moving that it fills your senses with the beauty of a snowy forest and the shimmering magic of their pirouettes and lifts.  Eighteen Snowflake dancers emerge as the King and Queen continue within the swirling and flurries of Snowflake dancers.  With one of the larger Snow Scene casts around, you would expect to see challenges with the synchronization of the movements, but this company is so rehearsed, so professional and dedicated to their art, they are perfect in every motion. This is an amazing Snow Scene and the dancers are spectacular!

Although most companies play Act II a bit more seriously, here the curtain opens to a group of "Flying Chef Angels" preparing pastries at center stage and flying back and forth through the air.  This is hugely funny and superbly creative.  The divertissements are very accomplished with six stunning Spanish dancers, magical pink Arabians that perform an intertwining dance and the always favorite Russian with high kicks, jumps and spins.  The fifteen foot high giant Madame Bonbonaire takes the stage and lifts her skirt to let you see what looks to be her dancing legs -- too funny.  The Waltz of Flowers continues the fun with a corps of eight beautiful dancers dressed as yellow golden flowers, each wearing a set of antenna on their head!

The Grand Pas de Duex is performed by Lauren Anderson, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Rolando Sarabia, as the Nutcracker Prince.  Lauren is a well known dancer and so beautiful and graceful to watch.  What a pairing with Rolando who is simply stunning with his huge leaps and turns.  An amazing and beautiful performance!

The Houston Ballet provides a big and brilliant Texas-sized Nutcracker, blending light hearted fun with superbly talented performers.    It's a national southwestern treasure.
 

 



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