Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|George Balanchine's The Nutcracker|
Actors: Macaulay Culkin, Darci Kistler, Bart Robinson Cook, Kyra Nichols, Jessica Lynn Cohen
Director: Emile Ardolino
Genres: Kids & Family, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Angels and sugarplums. Candy canes and ice. A magic prince, a dreamy young girl, a mysterious old man and a Christmas tree that grows sky high. Enter the world of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, featuring the New York ... more »
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Impressive production; all-around fine performance; good DVD
J. Lizzi | Costa Mesa, CA | 01/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All things considered, I have to say that this is quite an enjoyable theatrical presentation of Balanchine's "The Nutcracker." Looking at "the show" itself, its most rave-worthy characteristic is how well the team of Peter Martins (ballet master), Emile Ardolino (director) and Ralf Bode (cinematographer) collaborated to actually "choreograph the camera" to the movements of the performers. Thanks to a talented movie crew and an incredible amount of consideration given to viewing angles (read the description in the disc's "special features"), the TV always seemed to be showing exactly what I wanted to look at on the stage. Add in some nice work by Industrial Light & Magic, decent narration, and a top-notch production team, and the result is a superb presentation.From a performance standpoint, I'd give this an A-minus mainly because the versions of "The Nutcracker" I've seen most often cast the Nutcracker Prince in a much more active role dancewise. Still, everyone else did a fantastic job. Noteworthy were the Pas de Deux by the Cavalier (Damian Woetzel) and Sugarplum Fairy (Darci Kistler), and the powerful dance presence of Coffee (Wendy Whelan). The other "Sweets" performed very well also. So long as you try not to picture Macaulay Culkin as a ballet dancer, you'll be okay. Let's face it: you can't expect the little guy to measure up next to the NYC Ballet, but he is there to add a little star appeal and possibly sell ballet to your kids (which may not be a bad idea). Nuff said. By the way, the younger performers from the School of American Ballet were wonderful.Regarding disc features, the DVD has some cool stuff to offer: two viewing formats, 30-scene index, and some good production notes regarding the history of the show, camera choreography and description of ILM's special effects."
Five Stars Despite Macauley
J. Lizzi | 06/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The one time that I've seen the George Balanchine production of 'The Nutcracker' in New York, I was standing at the back of the top balcony. I obviously couldn't see much even with the pair of 7x50 binoculars I brought, so I'm glad that this DVD has become available. The recording wasn't made before an audience but was nonetheless filmed on stage. It thus preserves the appearance and staginess of the original production, while the camerawork has more freedom and energy than it would have otherwise. The dancers of the NYC Ballet and the students from its associated school, the School of American Ballet, have performed the Balanchine Nutcracker every Christmas season since 1969 (the film was made in 1993). I prefer this production in great part because children and not adults perform the children's roles unlike most of the other tapes and DVDs available. Here the kids are delighfully energetic and enthusiastic; the only sour note is Macauley Culkin as the nutcracker-prince. He attended the SAB for awhile, and he looks thoroughy bored at returning to his old haunts. I don't know if it's his fault or the director's, but his disdainful expressions are rather off-putting. He was obviously cast to draw a larger audience, and he certainly looks the part, but his dancing skills aren't good enough for what amounts to the lead role.A recent article in the NYT said that the SAB has for some years been making a concerted effort to attract more boys (free tuition, no tights, frequent auditions, single-sex classes, etc.). The result is that all the boys' roles in this performance are filled by boys and not disgruntled little girls. I quite enjoy this DVD, and I highly recommend it. It has few extra materials; only some short biographies and some footage about making the film. I would like to have had some rehearsal and backstage footage since I'm not familiar with how a ballet is put together."
Balanchine's legendary Nutcracker probably still the best
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 12/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a filmed version of George Balanchine's legendary Nutcracker. In Europe, many Nutcrackers had been influenced by Vassily Vainonen's Soviet staging which views the story as a young girl's romantic awakening. Balanchine closely followed the 1892 Petipa original and refocused the ballet on the kids. Each year the NYCB chooses children from the School of American Ballet to dance much of the Nutcracker. It's always been a success.
The film is a fairly successful recreation of the staged ballet which I've seen. Macauley Culkin is the Nutcracker Prince, and he wears way too much lipstick and his hair is slicked back unattractively, but the Prince is pretty much a non-dancing part and I practically forgot he was there. Kevin Kline narrates the ballet, to make the storyline more understandable i guess. Otherwise the film sticks pretty closely to the stage. Jessica Lynn Cohen is a surprisingly serious Marie. The children in the party scene are all very fun to watch, and Balanchine charmingly choreographs the first act so the kids actually behave like kids, rather than dancing automatons. The fight scene is also wonderfully choreographed, and Balanchine in my opinion was wise in not making the mice overly scary. In some productions the mice are truly terrors, with red eyes and pointy faces and terrifying poses. Balanchine's Mouse Scene is funny, cute and clever. Basically, he has two groups of mice sitting in bleachers, watching the fight between the Mouse King and Prince, and cheering as if they were at a football game. By far the best Mouse choreography I've seen in all the Nutcrackers.
I didn't like the scene immediately after the fight. Having Marie lie on a bed during some of Tchaikovsky's most beautiful music seems anti-climactic. I much prefer productions where the Prince and Marie/Clara/Masha run around onstage, enthralled by the magical Christmas night. But Balanchine quickly redeems himself when in the second act he revives the mime that he learned as a student in the Mariinsky ballet. The mime is probably taken directly from the Ivanov choreography.
The other thing that I didn't care for was Balanchine's rearrangement of the pas de deux/dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy variation. In Balanchine's Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy variation occurs at the SPF's entrance, while the pas de deux with the Cavalier occurs at the end of Act 2. There is no variation for the Cavalier. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the traditional ballet arrangement of pas de deux/male variation/female variation/coda preserved.
The cast represents some of the best dancers of the post-Balanchine era at the New York City Ballet. Darci Kistler is the Sugar Plum Fairy, and I've never been particularly enchanted by this ballerina, but she dances very well here, and has the kind of gracious bearing that's needed for this role. Damian Woetzel is her Cavalier. I like Kyra Nichols better as the Dewdrop, and Wendy Whelan is shown in her sinewy, almost androgynous advantage in the Coffee (Arabian) solo. Watching the Mother Ginger number is always a treat, although I think in the theater it has more charm.
Balanchine's choreography is still the most crowdpleasing and charming of all the Nutcrackers. Everyone has his favorite moments (mine is the beginning sequence, when Marie and her brother Fritz are peeking through a doorway at the party) and the film is an accurate recreation of this holiday staple. Highly recommended for kids, IMO."
Balanchine 10, Caulkin 0
Ivy Lin | 06/18/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Of all the versions of Nutcracker out there, this probably sells the best, due to the popularity of its' child star. Too bad. My students find him looking and dancing ridiculous, and I agree. For an imaginative and more engaging (albeit strange) interpretation, watch the Sendak/Pacific Northwest Ballet version. It is far more entertaining."