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New Jersey Ballet's Nutcracker Is the Best Ever


By Bruce Chadwick


originally published: 12/20/2022

New Jersey Ballet

The New Jersey Ballet’s production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, now running at Morristown’s Mayo Center for the Performing Arts, is the VERY BEST Nutcracker staged by that dance company I have seen in nearly thirty years.

The magic of the ballet starts right away, I mean in the first ten seconds, and grows throughout  the show.

Nothing is wrong with this show, not a thing (except the cranky little kid sitting behind me who kept kicking the back of my chair). I don’t know what the reason is that it is so perfect. I thought through all the reasons and concluded that every little thing in it goes right, and at the same time. There is a small scene that demonstrates that. A row of boys needs to turn their heads left and they do so, one after the other, in perfect rhythm. Sensational. The whole production is near perfect because of that precision.

Did the audience appreciate the skills of the dancers? I have never heard such long and loud – oh, yeah - loud applause at the end of the ballet.

I became caught up in the ballet story right away and stayed with it until the last long roar of applause at its end by the overjoyed audience. The applause mist have rattled windows in the next county.

New Jersey Ballet



 
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The tip off to a fine day at the ballet might have been Santa Clause in front of the theater sitting on his motorcycle. Thin about it – what a way to get around the North Pole!

Hey, if you were a cop and Santa whizzed past you on a motorcycle, would you give him a ticket?

The Nutcracker is the story of a gorgeous party at the large mansion of the Stahibaum family in St. Petersburg, Russia, at Christmas in 1892. The family has two children, Fritz and Clara, who are engaged with other children and their parents as the party swirls through the winter night. There are dozens of adults, bringing a lot of children. All are unaware that the home is going to be attacked by a vicious, blood thirsty army of huge armed mice, led by a mouse king.

New Jersey Ballet

A young girl, Clara, the family’s daughter, is defended by a Nutcracker prince who leads the very successful attack on the mice by children who become soldiers.  Clara and her brother sail off into the night, high up above the stage, in a handsome gondola as their friends cheer and the bad enlarged mice lay dead all over the stage.

Act Two is entirely different. There, the children are greeted by the beautiful and graceful Sugar Plum fairy and seeing the living room Christmas tree grow higher and higher until it disappears. They also witness the arrival of a woman who is some fifteen feet tall and under her huge, colorful dress has a horde of young children, a very large horde of young children, quickly emerge. They all tumble out on to the stage. I stopped counting them at 2,345. Here, the Sugar Plum fairy and her cavalier also entertain the two children and the audience.  Frit and Clara, in huge chairs, are witnesses to a large party where dancers from different nations, such as Spain, Russia and China, perform for them. The party is a showcase for the dancers in the New Jersey Ballet. Whoa, can these people jump and soar. They do dazzling flips in the air, their foreheads just an inch or so from the floor as they somersault. Your heart not only gets stuck in your throat, but stays there. The Russians, for my money, are just the best, but the most pulse racing and heart stooping.

New Jersey Ballet

The entire ballet is enhanced by dramatic special effects, such as huge smoke and clouds generated by an enormous special effects system. The ballet is further improved by beautiful, brightly colored costumes for the dancers.

Example: there is one scene in which dozens of young girl dancers, with wings, portray angels in heaven with the special effects people creating a cloud heaven in which they perform. Fantastic.

The music for The Nutcracker was first class, played by the very first class New Jersey Symphony, one of the top orchestras in the country. The gifted conductor is John Yaffe.

In every great ballet there is a magic in the show, a magic created by the artistic director, the symphony and the dancers in the production. There is a tremendous magic here, all thanks to these people.

New Jersey Ballet

I was so taken in by the show, kidnapped by it, that I asked for a sword for Christmas so that when I went to sleep at night, I could do fierce battle with the Mouse King...

The entire production is overseen by the dance troupe’s artistic director, Maria Kowroski, with the assistance of a dozen or more others.



 
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The show is a big one and different dancers play each role (six different girls play Clara, as an example). At the performance I attended, all of the people in the cast were just terrific.

Even the rotten little kid sitting behind me kicking the back of my chair could not dampen my enthusiasm for the show or for any Santas on motorcycles, either.

New Jersey Ballet

The Nutcracker will be staged at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown through December 27. Click here for ticket information.

Remaining performances take place: Thursday, December 22 at 7:30pm; Friday, December 23 at 7:30pm; Saturday, December 24 at 1:00pm; Monday, December 26 at 1:00pm & 6:00pm; and Tuesday, December 27 at 1:00pm.

** Note: Performances are nearly sold out. There is a livestream available on Thursday, December 22 at 7:30pm. Click here for tickets to the livestream.



Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer/critic for the New York Daily News. Later, he served as the arts and entertainment critic for the History News Network, a national online weekly magazine. Chadwick holds a Ph. D in History and Cultural Studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on U.S. history and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is a history professor at New Jersey City University.






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