THE NUTCRACKER – SF Ballet Is In Grand Form

Tchaikovsky’s Enduring Holiday Ballet plays through December 27th

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Ballet’s production of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s THE NUTCRACKER is spectacularly beautiful. It is the perfect treat for the Holiday Season and a San Francisco dream come true. The story begins on Christmas Eve 1915 amidst the glittering wonderland that was the Pan Pacific Exhibition. While The City is shimmering in a flood of jeweled lights and the world is flocking to the newly-constructed Palace of Fine Arts – the Stahlbaum Family is enchanted by the latest creation from Uncle Drosselmeyer’s upscale toy shop. For his innocent and starry-eyed pre-debutante niece, Clara, he presents an Oscar-sized nutcracker in the shape of a toy soldier. She loves her new Cavalier. The magic takes hold, Clara falls asleep, and the multi-tasking toy soldier/kitchen helper is transformed into the Nutcracker Prince. Rubén Martín Cintas danced the title role at the Opening Night performance. Along with Clara (Elise Gillum) the audience fell in love with the gallant Mr. Cintas and were held captive by his dramatic skills and technical perfection. Come the Act 2 Grand Pas de Deux, the Tomasson touch has young Clara transformed into a most eligible princess – performed by the dazzling and unusually sparkling Yuan Yuan Tan. Tomasson’s Nutcracker is the dream of love come true.

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YUAN YUAN TAN and RUBÉN MARTIN CINTAS. Photo, Erik Tomasson

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GAREN SCRIBNER. Photo, Erik Tomasson

The production elements are sumptuous. Set designs by Michael Yeargan are as intriguing as they are opulent. The lofty Victorian lines and gracious interiors of the family home seem totally familiar to visitors and residents of San Francisco. For some of the younger viewers (anxious about career choices in the Performing Arts), the anticipated transformation of the spacious living room and encroaching decorated tree is the kind of stage wizardry guaranteed to inspire future carpenters and backstage technicians of all stripes. Enter the Nutcracker Prince and his army of defendants against the scurrilous Mouse King (Quinn Wharton) and his plague of infidels. At stake is the safety and virtue of young Clara. Whoever wins – gets the girl! Lighting designer James F. Ingalls provides the perfect mood for this now treacherous battle zone. The Mouse King is slain and dispatched to the lower depths, Clara and her Prince are quickly on their way to the yummiest party in town. But, not until the King and Queen of the Snow (Pierre-François Vilanoba and Sarah Van Patten) and a 16-member retinue of Snowflakes bring about a purifying snow shower. Again, set and lighting designers Yeargan and Ingalls serve up a wondrous display of the fantastical. The sleigh ride into the woods involves the heaviest and most intoxicating downfall of delicate and shimmering powdery snow ever seen. (“How can they see what they’re doing?” says the little boy behind me.) Safety and Green Monitors take note. I hear the illusion is accomplished with shredded paper (perhaps reviews from local rags) which is afterwards gathered and specially processed to extract every last potentially dangerous foreign object, i.e., hairpins, brilliants, etc., and re-cycled for the next performance. Bravo!

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KING OF THE MICE – Quinn Wharton. Photo, Erik Tomasson

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THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY – Sofiane Sylve. Photo, Erik Tomasson

Act II introduces the “Sugar Plum Fairy”, danced by Sofiane Sylve. She was the perfect choice for Opening Night. (Which included really-great sugar cookies out in the Lobby.) Sofiane’s technique is spot-on, she radiates boundless energy, and her classical beauty is fascinating.

The audience was unanimous in their praise for the Russian Dance trio – Pascal Molat with Daniel Deivison and Benjamin Stewart. The MVP of The Evening goes to Pascal Molat. The man defies gravity. He is also a charmer. Pascal Molat is one of the most versatile dancers in the Ballet world.

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PASCAL MOLAT, The Russian Dance.
Tomasson’s Nutcracker. Photo, Erik Tomasson

WEEKEND CAST LIST –
Saturday Matinee, December 12, 2:00 pm
Conductor: Gary Sheldon
Drosselmeyer: Jorge Esquivel
Queen and King of the Snow: Elana Altman, Brett Bauer
Sugar Plum Fairy: Dana Genshaft
Grand Pas de Deux: Sarah Van Patten, Vadim Solomakha

Saturday Evening, December 12, 7:00 pm
Conductor: Martin West
Drosselmeyer: Damian Smith
Queen and King of the Snow: Frances Chung, Hansuke Yamamoto
Sugar Plum Fairy: Sofiane Sylve
Grand Pas de Deux: Vanessa Zahorian, Taras Domitro

Sunday Matinee, December 13, 2:00 pm
Conductor: Martin West
Drosselmeyer: Val Caniparoli
Queen and King of the Snow: Julianne Kepley, Anthony Spaulding
Sugar Plum Fairy: Elana Altman
Grand Pas de Deux: Maria Kochetkova, Davit Karapetyan

Sunday Evening, December 13, 7:00 pm
Conductor: Gary Sheldon
Drosselmeyer: Yuri Possokhov
Queen and King of the Snow: Lorena Feijoo, Vitor Luiz
Sugar Plum Fairy: Frances Chung
Grand Pas de Deux: Sarah Van Patten, Vadim Solomakha

Click here for ticket information: THE NUTCRACKER

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TOMASSON’S NUTCRACKER. Photo, Erik Tomasson

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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