I’d been waiting for this year: the year my daughter would be old enough to see The Nutcracker. We’d actually gone to a non-professional production last year, but she had been a bit restless throughout. Now, at 5½ and with a growing love for dance, it was time for the real deal: Oregon Ballet Theatre’s annual production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.
“Excited” barely describes how we felt when we entered the Keller Auditorium Sunday afternoon. The lobby was abuzz with so many people—among them girls in their finest holiday dresses and boys seemingly nonchalant about the whole thing, though, deep down, probably just as excited.
And rightly so. The entire production is like a dream: a grand party, a fierce battle, graceful snowflakes flitting among a dazzling flurry, fanciful dancing sweets, the hilarious Mother Ginger (played in some performances by Poison Waters—so very Portland!), the exquisite Dew Drop, and the ever-elegant Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. For many dancers, it’s a dream come true, perhaps more so for the 144 OBT students who fill various roles throughout and share the stage with the professionals. Every moment is enchanting, and each step, pose, jeté, and pirouette showcases the dancers’ strength and artistry. The OBT Orchestra, featured in eight performances, instead of the prerecorded—though still gorgeous—Tchaikovsky score, enhanced the action on the stage. Live music added an element that elevated the experience.
My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it all. It helped that she’d seen the other production and had recently read a picture book based on the ballet. And renting a booster for $1 was money well spent. Still, she got a little antsy toward the end. The show clocks in at about two hours, plus a 25-minute intermission, so it can be hard for little ones to stay engaged the whole time. (Some families with younger viewers around us left shortly after Act II began). It’s a good idea to roam the Keller during the long break. Concessions and gift shops with ornaments, tutus, fairy wings, and other delights can be found on the main floor and first balcony level. If the orchestra is there, make your way to the pit between acts to see some instruments up close. Don’t forget about the restrooms on the other levels!
When planning your outing, allow for time to park and get to your seats. (There’s no late seating.) You might find more street parking closer to PSU than near the heart of downtown, and there are several parking structures nearby. (The closest Smart Park is on SW 1st and Jefferson.)
As for attire, the holidays are a good reason to dress up, as evidenced by the girls in their festive velvet, tulle, and glitter. But winter also means dressing sensibly in warm layers and sturdy shoes. So go as you are and as you wish, be comfortable, and enjoy the show.
OBT’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker runs through December 26 at Keller Auditorium.
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