Dance review: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'Nutcracker' still delights in 15th season
December 3, 2016 2:31 PM
Hannah Carter and Luca Sbrizzi in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's “The Nutcracker.”
Principals Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano in the second act of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's "Nutcracker."
Hannah Carter and William Moore in "The Nutcracker" by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It’s hard to believe that Terrence Orr’s sparkling version of “The Nutcracker” for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has been around for 15 years and is once again filling the stage at the Benedum Center. That can be reason enough to give pause for reflection.
Certainly we could appreciate that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was also rearing its collective head down the block at Heinz Hall for its first concerts after a contentious strike threw a dark pall over the Cultural District and its businesses. That alone could have reminded both artists and audiences to be more aware of how important the arts are, not only to our souls, but to the city’s bottom line.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s ‘Nutcracker’
When: 7 p.m. today, Dec. 9-10, 15-17, 20-23 and 26-27; 2 p.m. Dec. 10, 17 and 27 (sensory-friendly adaptation); noon Sunday, Dec. 11 and 18; 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11 and 18; 11 a.m. Dec. 24; and 3:30 p.m. Dec. 24.
Where: Benedum Center, Downtown.
Tickets: Start at $28 at www.pbt.org or 412-456-6666. Groups of 10 or more should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-454-9101. Patrons are encouraged to beware of scalpers and to purchase tickets through one of these channels or at the box office at Theater Square in the Cultural District.
Although the PBT orchestra has not returned to be part of the annual “Nut,” (there was, however, a passionate vow from the administration to make that happen in the future), the cast, and particularly Alexandra Kochis' radiant Marie, seemed elated by the seasonal spirit on opening night Friday.
Her Marie was a child-like figure whose face reflected the magic of it all while gently knocking on the brink of adulthood as she indulged in her first romance with Luca Sbrizzi (Nephew/Nutcracker).
The two made for a lovely pairing — he giving her confidence and security, she responding with an unabashed and welcome warmth. Ms. Kochis embraced it all, entranced by the Nutcracker that Drosselmeyer gave her and thrilled by the Transformation where everything grew larger than life, making it seem like we were all seeing it for the first time.
Using soft, flowing arms, she embodied Marie in one of the strongest performances seen at PBT over those 15 years. Along with Mr. Sbrizzi, they built their journey together, culminating with free, sweeping solo turns in “Waltz of the Flowers.”
As usual Mr. Orr tinkered with his creation, adding new details for veteran “Nut” goers (they should have a contest to see how many can spot them).
And there were some dancer-ly surprises along the way, beginning with Fritz, Marie’s brother, often full of impish comic relief in the first act. But Yutaka Tomokiyo was a real scene-stealer this year as he plagued his sister, although there was also a touching scene with Marie that enhanced their relationship.
And Masahiro Haneji (Mr. McTavish) armed with a flurry of crisp beats and stellar split leaps, had Andrew Fleischner (Young McTavish) going toe-to-toe with him in another bright duo.
More surprising developments among the men continued into the second act, where Ruslan Mukhambetkaliyev led the Spanish dance with the flair and panache of a mini-“Don Quixote” and William Moore continued to develop a powerful stage presence during an acrobatic Arabian dance with Hannah Carter.
One can always rely on some things, though, like the snow scene on Mount Washington, with Julia Erickson and Alexandre Silva capitalizing on the soaring Tchaikovsky melodies, and the Sugar Plum (Amanda Cochrane) and her Cavalier (Yoshiaki Nakano) who toned down their usual panache, opting for a more refined sense of control during the amusement park finale.
Likewise we can always value this production, much like opening a toy chest chock full of Pittsburgh treasures, past, present and, hopefully, some new dance gems.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: email@example.com. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
Correction: Dec. 4, 2016: The name of the artist who danced the role of Young McTavish was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.
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