- Last Updated: 10:38 AM, November 27, 2012
- Posted: 10:53 PM, November 26, 2012
New York City Ballet, David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center; 212-496-0600. Through Dec. 30. Running time: 120 minutes, one intermission
It’s hard to keep a nearly 60-year-old party lively, especially if you use the same music and decorations every year. But you can tweak the guest list, and George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” part of the holiday scene since 1954, looked fresh on Friday’s opening night, with new faces, good performances — and one great one.
The new kids on the block portray children from an idealized 19th century, but they’re anything but well-behaved moppets. Ten-year-old Claire Abraham, who plays the ballet’s heroine Marie, is energetic, lovable and bossy — a tiny terror in a party dress.
Her brother Fritz, played by F. Henry Berlin, also 10, is a hambone with great comic instincts, bowing extravagantly at every girl, but ending up with his mom.
The only goody-two-shoes among them is the magician Herr Drosselmeyer’s nephew, Lleyton Ho, 12, but he has a trick of his own: He’s actually the Nutcracker Prince. With Marie’s help, he vanquishes the evil Mouse King in a battle that seems as much Lewis Carroll as E.T.A. Hoffmann — the mice box with the soldiers and the cannon shoots cheese.
The zaniness leads into Tchaikovsky’s magical “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” which New York City Ballet’s orchestra takes at a tempo that is part blizzard, part Indy 500.
But the big dancing is in the second act. The Sugarplum Fairy — tall, willowy Maria Kowroski — drifts on as if blown by the wind. She showed off her long, elegant lines partnered with Jonathan Stafford, but it’s still not her best role: The tricky steps are better suited to a tighter, more controlled dancer.
The great performance turned out to be Tiler Peck’s, as a grand, glorious Dewdrop leading the “Waltz of the Flowers.” Watching her expand into a pose or control a risky turn — daring an extra revolution with paradoxical grace — is like seeing a rose come into full bloom. She’s yet to turn 23, and her time is now.
The corps behind her is young but in good shape, with many apprentices making their company debuts. And among them there is again finally an African-American woman, Olivia Boisson, the first in almost a decade.
Some things, like Balanchine’s “Nutcracker,” should never be altered, but for his company to become as diverse as its home would be a change for the better.