On December 10th, I went with my family to watch the Texas Ballet Theater perform Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. The well known story of the Nutcracker begins as Herr Stahlbaum throws a Christmas party, and all the guests are arriving, and the children are receiving gifts. Herr Stahlbaum’s children, Clara and Fritz, spend a good deal of time chasing after each other and arguing with each other in this opening scene. Dr. Drosselmeyer, Clara’s mysterious godfather, suddenly appears, and entertains the children with a numerous number of magical tricks, as well as life size wind-up dolls. Dr. Drosselmeyer also presents a wooden nutcracker, which he presents to Clara. Out of jealousy though, Fritz breaks off the head of the nutcracker, but the nutcracker is quickly mended by Dr. Drosselmeyer. The party ends as the guests begin to leave, and the Stahlbaums retire to their respective rooms. During the middle of the night, Clara is woken by the sound of a mouse running across her room. Then, as the clock strikes midnight, giant mice appear and attack Clara. Dr. Drosselmeyer suddenly appears, and uses his “magical powers” to cause the Christmas tree to grow forty feet tall, and sends life size toy soldiers, led by the Nutcracker, to Clara’s rescue. In the final battle between the Nutcracker and the Rat King, the Nutcracker is wounded, and Clara comes to his rescue by throwing her shoe at the Rat King. The Nutcracker then transforms into a prince, and the Nutcracker Prince transforms the house into a Land of Snow, where the Snow Queen and her Snowflakes send off the Nutcracker Prince and Clara to the Kingdom of Sweets in an enchanted sleigh, ending Act I. In Act II, upon reaching the Kingdom of Sweets, Clara is entertained by numerous dances: a Spanish dance, an Arabian dance, a Chinese Dance (two men performing acrobatics with swords), a Dance of Mirlitons (better known as Dance of the Reed Flutes), a dance with Madame Bonbonaire and her children, a Russian dance, and the Waltz of the Flowers. The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince end the performance with a grand Pas de Deux (a dance for two divided into five parts: entrée, adage, variation for danseur-male dancer, variation for danseuse-female dancer, and coda). Following a Coda, Clara drifts to sleep and reawakens in her own bed.
I found the Texas Ballet Theater’s performance of The Nutcracker highly entertaining, although I altogether do not understand ballet very well. In Act I, I found Fritz’s devilish antics highly amusing; especially since him and his fellow mischief managers would get caught every time and reprimanded by their parents. Many laughs could be heard during Act I during the Christmas party as multiple hilarious events occurred. After the party, the clock, when chiming midnight, did not actually have its hands set to midnight, but to 11:30 PM to my amusement. The battle between the rats and the toy soldiers was entertaining, if not outright odd. Scenes from the battle include a giant rat waving a white flag when the cannon was fired, and rats and toy soldiers fighting while the soldiers did not really make use of their swords. Most amusingly however, the rats all seem to be afraid of shoes and pillows, and in the final scenes of the battle, when the Rat King wounded the Nutcracker, the Rat King appeared to have passed out or died from a girl throwing a shoe at him. Act II was confusing, for I did not understand the concepts of ballet and such did not understand the multiple dances performed. The music however, was very familiar to me, as it was music from Tchaikovsky’s score for the Nutcracker, among notable pieces included the March, Dance of the Reed Flutes, and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.