Located in the heart of Northwest D.C. is the Warner Theatre and home of The Washington Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” for over twenty-five years. With a gold-plated proscenium arch and a scenic pocket on either side of the stage, The Warner knows exactly what it is—and so does The Washington Ballet. More is more in this rendition of “The Nutcracker,” and with a twist unique to the D.C. area, “The Nutcracker” is a rich hot cup of cocoa to sweeten the holiday season.
…a rich hot cup of cocoa to sweeten the holiday season…a delightful feast for the eyes.
One can attend this ballet year after year and still find new elements sprinkled throughout the story- especially in Act 1. For example, who knew that two of the adult couples who attend Clara’s family’s Christmas party in Act One are twins? Probably a lot of people, but if one is focusing on Fritz’ various antics or the hopeless ineptitude of Clara’s Grandfather, it’s easy to miss details like this. One easy solution: go every year! The Washington Ballet has created a fully fleshed out world, the kind only possible after years and years of practice. Every dancer always has something to do, and this makes for a delightful feast for the eyes.
The Washington Ballet always delivers on casting, and this year was particularly well balanced. There were some excellent performances in both Act I and Act II, such that Septime Webre’s original choreography was slightly tweaked to feature the dancer’s talents. One of the most energetic numbers featured Jie-Siou Wu as The Frontiersman, sometimes called the “Russian” number in other productions. It often features the lead danseur performing pirouettes a la seconde but this year, Wu added back handsprings and a few 540 steps, the latter of which involves the dancer rotating a full 360 degrees in the air before landing. Wu truly stole the show and the smile on his face was proof enough that he loved every minute of it.
The battle between The Rats, The Nutcracker Prince, and his army was well thought out and still managed a certain sleekness despite the crowded stage. The Redcoat Rats were hilarious and frightening, and The Rat King, played by Stephen Nakagawa, shone in his gold cape. Judanna Lynn’s costume design is wonderfully detailed and specific and each piece glows like a jewel under Tony Tucci’s lighting design. One of the showstoppers is the Grand Pas de Deux in Act II, danced by the Sugarplum Fairy and The Cavelier. Tchaikovsky’s strings drag across the score like waves, flowing and ebbing in time with the harp and Nicole Graniero and Oscar Sanchez as The Sugarplum and The Cavalier danced their parts flawlessly.
One of the most difficult ensemble numbers is Snow which closes Act I. This number requires tight choreography and each of the eleven Snow Flurries must stay ahead of the driving score. Snow is notoriously perilous, due to the large amount of fake snow falling on the dancers from overhead. Indeed, they did not appear altogether comfortable navigating the constant barrage, which did not let up until the curtain closed on Act I. It was difficult not to feel worried for the dancers, and one wonders if it needs to snow throughout the entire number. Surely the snow can taper off after The Snow Queen and King leave the stage, if only for safety’s sake.
The Washington Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is the perfect family occasion or date night for those old and young, and we, in the D.C. area, are lucky to have such a class act so accessible to us. Happy Holidays!
Running Time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“The Nutcracker” runs through December 30, 2023 at The Warner Theatre, 513 13th St NW, Washington D.C., 20004. For more information and to purchase tickets, go online.