Dance: Nothing Can Stop PNB's Nutcracker

Carrying on behind a stuck curtain.

In general, Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Nutcracker runs like a well-oiled machine—after almost 30 years, you would expect no less. But with live theater, there is always the possibility of disaster, and two weekends back there was indeed a small hiccup at McCaw Hall. When the curtain was supposed to go up on the panorama scene, in which Clara and the Nutcracker Prince travel to a magical land in a beautiful golden boat, it lifted only halfway. With the orchestra burbling in the pit and the dancers valiantly continuing their mime, most of the audience could see only Maurice Sendak's cunningly designed waves surging along. Choreographer Kent Stowell, who happened to be backstage, finally came out in front of the curtain, stopped the orchestra, and told the audience "We'll fix it, and start over." He was reassuring and cheerful—very much like the production itself, which honors the ballet's heritage while offering a wealth of charming innovations.

If this unexpected glitch gave anyone onstage a fright, they didn't show it. Saturday evening's performances were as solid as if nothing had gone wrong. Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand, so stalwart in their little boat during the debacle, were charming as Clara and the Prince. Tisserand has an elegant sense of line, especially in his legs, and he manages to be detailed as well as vigorous. Elizabeth Murphy gave a very clear performance as the Peacock, with a deeply sculpted lower back as she swished her tail feathers. And Laura Gilbreath sailed through the densely packed choreography for Flora.

One of the pleasures of Nutcracker is seeing dancers in a wide variety of roles. On Saturday night, Brittany Reid danced Princess Pirlipat and led the Moorish Dance along with Ezra Thomson. Over the run of the show, she'll also perform as Flora, the Peacock, and in the Commedia trio. Thomson will appear as a Nutcracker, a Dervish, a Sword-Dancer, a Warrior Mouse, and part of the Commedia. The four-week run can be grueling, but is full of these multiple opportunities, especially for corps de ballet members. PNB's Nutcracker has gifts for the performers as well as for the audience.

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