Oakland Ballet: Graham Lustig, Director
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Paramount Theater, Oakland
Oakland Ballet’s NUTCRACKER: Charming/Delightful
Oakland’s Paramount Theater was allmost full with the enthusiastic audience that supports the Ballet’s performances. The event is dedicated and cast with all the many ethnicities that are Oakland’s people.
Lustig is amazingly capable of producing the NUTCRACKER on the limited, shallow stage space at the Paramount. He is able to arrange groups, focus soloists and, with the help of scenic artists, create the magic that is this annual festive event. He does some changes with the original scenario but those are to the advantage of this show.
The family Christmas Eve party features Paunika Jones as Marie (the child who receives the Nutcracker doll from Uncle Drosselmeyer (Philip Chan). Marie is often besieged by brother Fritz (Alexader Pers) whose battling friends are later imagined as the attacking Rats. In her dream, Marie is able to assist the Nutcracker (Lawrence Chen) by killing the Rat King (Aiden O’Leary). This act of bravery and her imagination take her to the Frozen Forest where she is entertained by dancing Snowmaidens and rolly-polly Snowballs.
All these performers are children and adults of the Oakland Ballet school. Some may be guests for these performances. Both children and adults dance well, are delightfully costumed and, best of all, seem to enjoy their participation.
Marie and the Nutcracker Prince (now marvelously restored to human form) journey to Confiturembourg. There they are entertained by Bonbons, Peppermints, Clowns, Rosebuds, Candy Cooks and a variety of ‘international’ dancers. Finally the Sugar Plumb Fairy (Jazmine Quezada) and her Cavalier (Evan Ambrose) appear to dance the famous “pas de duex” that concludes the dream. Marie awakens, safe at home, happy with her Nutcracker doll and her Christmas dream.
Lustig has made the performance enchanting and within the range of all performers.
The stage space is challenging; so that choreography moves endlessly side to side since the depth is limited. The best dancing is done by Marie (Paunika Jones) and the Nutcracker Prince (Philip Chan). Jazmine Quezada and Evan Ambrose add professionalism to the final “pas de duex”. But it is he tdesign of all the dances and the excellent scenic wonders makes the Oakland Ballet’s NUTCRACKER a delightful holiday treat. Julius P. Williams conducted the Oakland Symphony
Note: The program notes the passing of Oakland Ballet’s former director and founder, Ronn Guidi and Michael Morgan, conductor of the Oakland Symphony, the group that accompanied Tchaikovsky’s score for the Nutcracker for this and previous performances. Julius P. Williams conducted the Oakland Orchestra.