ARTS REVIEW | Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker inspires awe at Orpheum Theatre


When a speechless performance can get the crowd at Orpheum Theatre to applaud and give “woos,” there’s something magical about what’s being presented on stage and the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker was no exception.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker North American Tour (West) stopped at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on Dec. 6 for three performances (at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.). Minnesota is the 23rd state of 43, on the west side of the United States, to see the 2014 version of this classical ballerina performance. The audience at Orpheum Theatre was in for a treat as they saw local children ranging from ages 7 to 16; perform with the ensemble line-up on tour featuring Anatolie Ustimov and Fedor Zarodyshev as Nutcracker Prince and Alisa Voronova and Olga Pasternak as Masha (in the Russian ballet Clara’s name is changed to Masha). Ustimov and Voronova played their respective roles in the opening show at noon.

Uncle Drosselmeyer, played by Andre Litvinov, opens the play and exposes audience to the colorful world. This play made use of original artwork as the scene background was a painted masterpiece with bright colors beautifully stroked to coordinate with the performers’ exquisite costumes. Scenic Designer and Puppet Maker Valentin Federov, student of master artist Valery Leventhal, was the set designer and painter and drew his inspiration from classical Russian art. To tip their hat to classical Russian art, they also borrowed a few iconic pieces to display them in the play.

The set design wasn’t the only attractive designs in the play, so were the costumes appearing throughout the play. Whether it was the Kissy Doll who appeared in a one of a kind costume, necklace, hat and tutu, in Christmas ornamented colors, red with dashes of green, and a skirt popping out as wide as her arm span or the lovely sight of the white and soft Dove of Peace.

Before the play gets to the Kissy Doll and the Dove of Peace, the local children performers make their debut and perform when it gets to the iconic March scene as they’re dressed in white dresses alongside the professional performers.

After receiving applauses in and out of each scene, the Great Russian Nutcracker takes it up a notch with the performance of the Moor Dolls. After Uncle Drosselmeyer brings the Matrushak Doll to the Christmas Eve celebration, outcomes the Moor Dolls. Performed by Sofik Khachatryan and Artem Kadurin, the two were electric as the two jumped adjacent to each other in their up-tempo sequence. Both dressed in elegant red gear, the two performed the most electrifying scene yet and drew the first “woos” of the night with their high-flying performance. When Kadurin performed a 360 degree jump twist and continued the motion until he brought it full circle around Khachatryan it riled the crowd even more.

Act I concluded when the Nutcracker Doll becomes a prince and dances a Masha in the Snow Forrest Scene as the two gallop across stage and perform a few lifts. During one of the lifts, Nutcracker brings Masha so high where she’s almost as tall as the trees covered in snow in the background and Masha stretches her leg out leftward.

After the intermission, the Dove of Peace is presented. For the 22nd consecutive year, the Great Russian Nutcracker uses the Dove of Peace to dedicate their performance to world peace. Khachatryan and Kadurin took on the honor to perform the Dove of Peace as a 2 person figure which was first done in the 2012 version of the Great Russian Nutcracker during the 20 year anniversary showing. The two, Khachatryan and Kadurin, cultivated the Orpheum Theatre with their peaceful performance to welcome Masha and Nutcracker to a land of peace and harmony.

The following scene is where Uncle Dresselmeyer gives Nutcracker the sword which Nutcracker eventually uses to save Masha from the king mice. This scene is reiterated from a scene in Act I when Uncle Dresselmeyer shows a brief version of the story with puppets which was created by Federov.

In Act II, the Great Russian Nutcracker demonstrates performance variations from several cultures of ballet including Chinese, Arabian, French, Spanish and of course Russian.

Khachatryan and Kadurin, performing the Arabian variation, again let out another cultivating performance as the two performed moves that kept the audience at the edge of their seat. One included Kadurin holding Khachatryan’s hands and as Khachatryan’s arms were behind her back she was able to elegantly rotate 360 degrees–pushing her legs off the ground, up over her head and touching the ground while still holding on to Kadurin’s hand–to perform a settle back flip where it happened so smooth and slow where it looked like as if she performed it in slow motion.

Another move they performed that drew “ooos” from the crowd was when Khachatryan broke the laws of physics to perform a move that looked nearly impossible. With Kadurin on the ground holding Khachatryan’s feet, Khachatryan tilted her body position face forward and slowly made her way down to where she appeared to have her face less than a foot away from the ground as she was able to balance her body with her hands at her side. With the crowd amazed, the two definitely had the Orpheum rocking with their final appearance of the night and they heard it again from the crowd at roll call.

Before the final dance between Nutcracker and Masha, Masha performed her final solo the classic “Sugar Plum Fairy.” She didn’t miss a beat with any move as she tapped to the ring of each bell and even performed it backwards.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker has definitely left their mark in Minnesota with their four-star performance at Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

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