Directory Free Newsletter Contact Log in

European-American Topics - Culture - Nutcracker

PNB’s Nutcracker: Too Sentimental or Joyfully Transcendental?  
Rosie Gaynor
Posted November 27, 2007


    Personally, I love Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker production. 

In addition to the cliché but nonetheless-thrilling Tchaikovsky score, there are gorgeous sets and charming costumes designed by  Maurice Sendak.  

    And Kent Stowell’s concept and choreography succeed. Actually, I think it is among Stowell’s best works. The choreography is interesting for those of us who attend the ballet often, yet super-accessible for those who have never been. Picture big jumps for the men, lyrical passages for the women, fun moves for the 85 children onstage, and not too many of those rhythmically baffling moments you sometimes find in Stowell’s work. 

    Most importantly, the dancers in PNB’s Nutcracker are Christmasly beautiful, year after year after year. Here’s where their professionalism really comes into play. They make Nutcracker look fresh and delightful despite the fact some of them have performed it many hundreds of times during their careers. 

    It’s a great show, one with heart. It’s joyous and scary, real and fantastical, adventurous and (cliché alert!)…magical

    The thing is, magic moments aren’t for everyone.

Hidden Hijinks:  Some of the Christmas Eve mischief isn’t really meant for the audience, so it’s all the more fun when you can catch it. For example, when Stacy Lowenberg danced Peacock one Christmas, she found her golden cage lined with newspaper. Keep your eyes peeled.
(Stacy Lowenberg as Peacock in PNB’s Nutrcracker. Angela Sterling photo.)


    My husband, for one. He’s not alone. Cynical, child-phobic, cute-sensitive folk had best avoid this traditional Christmas ballet. Unless, that is, you can go on December 24…when the dancers take a few liberties with costumes and props. It’s not promised, and was formerly not even sanctioned, but every Christmas Eve performance I’ve been to has had a little something extra dreamed up by the dancers and folks backstage. These are creative people who can pull off the subtle joke, the big gag, and even the happy comment. I’ll never forget the toilet paper streamer stuck to a toe shoe one Christmas. Or the giant toothbrush trotted out for the Nutcracker setpiece’s cheesy smile. Or Clara and the Prince cross-country skiing across the stage after the Waltz of the Snowflakes. Did I say “waltz”? Hm…some Christmas Eves it’s more like a snowball fight in a blizzard. Watch your Scrooge smile. Like I said: magic. 

    Magic moments will run you $20 to $125 per ticket. Is it worth it? Yes, if you have the means. (Check out the 25 percent discount for groups, the 15 percent discount coupon from Bartell Drugs, Ivar's, or Kidd Valley, and the approximately 10 percent discount for kids 12 and under.) Tickets are available at, by calling 206-441-2424, or at both the PNB and the McCaw Hall box offices. The show ends December 29. 

    If you’re not quite sure that your tyke is ready for a full-length performance but want to dip his/her tiny toe into this Christmas tradition, I’d recommend Sasquatch Books’ 2005 Nutcracker book. The prose is not inspired, but that doesn’t matter much, since the focus is the beautiful production photos by former dancer Angela Sterling. It’s a keepsake book, one you can pull out and enjoy every December. Less than $30, available on PNB’s website… Maybe my Cynic will buy me a copy for Christmas.

© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited