By Bridget Seelinger | The Duquesne Duke
Last Friday, December 4th, the curtain was raised to reveal Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s stunning 2015 production of “The Nutcracker”. A local Christmas tradition, PBT’s production this year has exceeded itself in grandeur, sparkle, and pizazz.
Highly anticipated was the Act I Christmas tree, which was promised to surpass expectations. The audience was wowed as the tree grew to include a large branch that stretched almost all the way across the stage. This added scale to the Christmas toys vs. rats battle and was very impressive as giant ornaments dangled over the complicated choreography that is involved in the battle scene.
In addition to the tree, the audience’s attention was grabbed by the redesigned Rat King headpiece as the Rat King looked over the battle as he stood on his pedestal. His eyes shone a striking red as he brandished his sword and threatened to strike a felling blow to the Nutcracker prince. Viewers were on the edge of their seats, anxiously watching the conclusion of this timeless, yet mighty battle which is repeated every year at the Benedum. The Nutcracker reigned victorious despite his foe’s new look.
Act II was ushered in, following a flawless performance by the Snow Queen and King, Julia Erickson and Alexandre Silva. Four additional dancers were added to the Waltz of the Flowers, giving the choreography more of an impressive scale, and the Arabian dance, done this year by soloist, Gabrielle Thurlow and corps de ballet dancer, Ruslan Mukhambetkaliyev, really demonstrated the high caliber that Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre demands of its dancers.
The audience laughed as the three sheep disciplined the naughty black sheep during the Shepherdess dance and were delighted by the clowns and tall Ringmaster. The bumblebees in Waltz of the Flowers did not disappoint and Spanish dance was done with a festive flair. As the Chinese ran onto stage with their lengthy dragon, it was impossible not to smile. This isn’t even to mention the stunning agility that the Russian dance demonstrated or the flawless grace that Alexandra Kochis and Christopher Budzynski brought to the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Friday’s performance was priceless, despite any hiccups that may have been found in the first act.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre outshone themselves with their first production of the season, so it comes as no surprise that they would top themselves with “The Nutcracker”. I may even find myself going to a second performance, just to see it all again. “The Nutcracker” will be showing for almost the whole month of December with tickets available at www.pbt.org.