Music By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Directed and Choreographed by Francis Patrelle
Presented by Dances Patrelle
Off Broadway, Dance
Ran through 12.11.16
The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 695 Park Avenue
by Shani R. Friedman on 12.17.16
The Dances Patrelle Company in The Yorkville Nutcracker. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor.
BOTTOM LINE: The Yorkville Nutcracker celebrated its 21st anniversary at the intimate playhouse this December in a rousing performance that delighted adults and children.
During the holiday season in New York, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to seeing The Nutcracker. In this version, set fittingly in Yorkville at Gracie Mansion circa 1895, the Christmas party is attended by real historical figures including then-Mayor William Strong, Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, and Noah Wheaton (who once owned the mansion). In the story, Wheaton (John-Mark Owen) is uncle to Mary Strong (Gabriela McIvor), to whom he gifts the titular toy. Clad in black and wearing an eye patch, Wheaton is a distinguished figure. Amid the dancing and arrival of many international guests, the maid (Becka Vargus Katz) supplies a bit of comedy, popping in and out to shake her fist at party-goers and swooning when Roosevelt kisses her on the hand. Late in the evening she brings out a trio of very cute kids (the younger Strong siblings), which gets a big “aw” from the audience. Wheaton reappears after everyone has fallen asleep and sprinkles magic dust. As Mary’s dream comes to life, the nutcracker doll is transformed into the dancing hero whose soldiers do battle with the mice and he slays the Mouse King (Felipe Aragão)
Mary and the Nutcracker (Ethan Wood) are then taken in a sled—driven by adorable tiny dancers dressed as reindeer—to Central Park. They see the beautifully-costumed Snow Queen (Therese Wendler) and Snow King (Maximillien Band) skating in Central Park. The show culminates in the dance spectacular at the New York Botanical Gardens. The Snow Queen invites her friends to dance for Mary and the Nutcracker, beginning with the Sugar Plum Fairy (Abi Stafford) and her Cavalier (Craig Hall). One by one, they are joined by a cavalcade of dancers from around the world, including representatives from Spain, Arabia, China, and Russia. The dancers are all great fun to watch but my favorites were Mother Ginger (Maureen Duke) and her impish, orange-satin-clad Gingerbread dancers, and the Arabian Divertissement (Kfir Danieli and Eliana Wenick), whose fluid movements were captivating.
The Nutcracker is a crowd-pleaser for a reason, with Tchaikovsky’s score, arguably one of the most recognized and beloved in the world, always a pleasure to hear outside of its abundant use in television commercials. Dance lovers are treated to hours of visually dazzling ballet and costumes. Even for a smaller company like Dances Patrelle putting on a production in a theatre a fraction of the size of Lincoln Center, The Nutcracker is an enormous undertaking involving dozens and dozens of dancers, a myriad of outfit changes and a tree that grows on stage. Although it doesn’t offer the same spectacle as other big-ticket Nutcrackers, fans of dance are given the chance to see all the famous numbers in a far more intimate space without breaking the bank. Keep an eye out for it next December.
(The Yorkville Nutcracker played at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College through December 11th, 2016. The running time was 2 hours with one intermission. Tickets were $$45-$85. For more information about Dances Patrelle, visit dancespatrelle.org.)
The Yorkville Nutcracker was directed and choreographed by Francis Patrelle. Set Design is by Gillian Bradshaw-Smith. Costume Design is by Rita B. Watson. Lighting Design by Ben Travis and David Grill. Stage manager is Kate Scott.