Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets: Holiday Ballet for Children
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The last date listed for Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets was Sunday December 16, 2012 / 2:00pm.
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Reviews & Ratings
Featured review from D. Ch'an-Moriwaki
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MFDP/SF’s Nutcracker Sweets, the Sweetest Nutcracker
by D. Ch’an-Moriwaki
Open to your heart of hearts and feel again the innocent wonder and joyousness of the child, way deep inside there. If you’re jaded by the perennial Nutcrackers ... or even better, if you don’t ever tire of the Nutcracker at all, then Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets is the Holidays jewel that would stand out above all other modestly produced Nutcrackers, for you and for your children. But first and last, above all else, it’s not danced to a Nutcracker recording, nor to some pop rendition of the Tchaikovsky. (We’ll get to this big consideration further along, by and by.)
At Fort Mason’s Southside Theater, with perhaps only 175 seats, this event affords a Nutcracker experience that is palpably direct for the senses. In the intimate closeness of this theater, every facial and body expression of the dancers’ miming in the unfolding story is clearly vibrant, and vital. Mark Foehringer adapts the essence of the Nutcracker story with an individual touch, where Love is the universal theme personified by Clara, Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker Prince, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and it teaches compassion, respect, and caring love. The ballet’s fun and funniness are simply infectious, for the dancers are wonderful actors --- Clara, Drosselmeyer, the Mouse King, and the Shop Assistant/Nutcracker Prince notably so.
Choreography, staging and direction are artfully imaginative and fresh, thrilling and droll, and, with her Nutcracker Prince and Drosselmeyer, Clara is exquisitely touching. Costume and set design have that warm, coloring-book, primary-colors, fantasy quality that lends to the enchanting atmosphere. Without being overly sophisticated graphically for the children, nor too precious and twee for the adults, everything visual is just right. The duration allotted to the action of each scene is neither overlong nor unfairly brief. All this makes for a Nutcracker which is eminently tasteful, in every aspect a pleasing balance. Geared for twitchy children and their rapid and short attention spans, the production is a perfect 50 minutes.
While all Nutcracker ballets are geared for children young and old, Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets favors children as the primary audience, rather than secondary to adults (as usual), by also admonishing the adults before the show begins that they are not to shush the children during the performance. Thus given free rein, the wee, treble squeals and cries of delight, surprise, sighs, giggles, babbles and cooing from the rapt, wide-eyed children are sweet and delicious to tune into. Nor do the attentive, totally engaged children need shushing anyway, in the first place, and neither are they twitching and squirmy, for their intent, happy sounds become part of the music.
The event begins with a string quartet on stage, setting the Holidays theme and mood with three carols, a "ballet prelude” as it were, each respecting every Holidays orientation – a traditional, the singably simple-melodied Jingle Bells for the children, and a secular carol. With sheer genius, Michael Morgan, Music Director of the Oakland-East Bay Symphony, arranged and re-orchestrated the Nutcracker Ballet's actual music for this show’s mere 50 minutes, translating the Tchaikovsky score’s weight and color for an orchestra of nine instruments, which included a piano and the opening string quartet --- all of whom, due to the tiny size of the theater, had to play from backstage and wings.
But with a piano’s full registers and with judicious amplification, the sonics of the hidden mini-orchestra of 9 (think of it as a piano octet, or as a nonet) fill every corner of the theater with the brilliance and sonority of a full orchestra. The live sound is simply thrilling. This leaves one to wonder how a small-production Nutcracker can possibly be presented, that is, presented fairly, with the usual canned music. It is because of the live music, because of a score true to the authentic, real spirit of the classical Tchaikovsky Nutcracker, the caliber of musicians (Oakland-East Bay Symphony members, no doubt), and the dance-wise conducting of Maestro Morgan, that Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets stands uniquely among the small-production Nutcrackers in this annual Holidays celebration.
With the piquant charm and sweeping grandeur of the live Tchaikovsky music, and the touchingly tender-hearted lovingness of Clara, I sat there mesmerized, and weepy. An absolute meltdown for me, even after having seen umpteen-jillion Nutcracker Ballets since childhood, on screen and on stage, performed by the world’s greatest companies and by dear, local dance groups. It’s beautiful, and inspiring ... and it’ll getcha.
The event’s finishing touch is the very special meet-and-greet, where the entire cast is outside in the vestibule, in costume and full make-up, down on the floor so as to especially receive the little ones after the performance, close-up, face-to-face, at eye level. And the kids are absolutely enthralled. :::
This show’s running time is 50 minutes, with no intermission.