The Hard Nut Berkeley 2017 Frank Wing 612

The Hard Nut by Mark Morris Dance Group is Spirited + Entertaining!

above: The Hard Nut ballet by Mark Morris returns to Cal Performances December 15-24, 2017 (Photo by Frank Wing)

The Hard Nut ballet by Mark Morris returns to Cal Performances
December 15-24,2017  (Photo by Susana Millman)

Mark Morris Dance Group presents The Hard Nut, December 15-24, 2017, produced by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. Based on a story, The Nutcracker and the Mouseking by E.T.A. Hoffman, Mark Morris has created and choreographed a unique and witty theatrical ballet, set to music by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, Op. 71 (1891-92).

The Hard Nut is fun and entertaining! Inventive choreography and mise en scène by Morris – the story is updated and set in the 70s –  cleverly intertwines modern social and classical dance styles to Tchaikovsky’s music. Morris creates characters that are always fascinating and add depth to the visual storytelling through wry humor. The setting is a Christmas Eve party hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum with their three children, when Drosselmeier, a family friend, arrives. Marie, the youngest child of the family is fascinated by Drosselmeier’s special gift. After the party, things happen and Marie is swept up in a truly magical journey

The Hard Nut ballet by Mark Morris returns to Cal Performances
December 15-24,2017  (Photo by Susana Millman)

Mark Morris himself plays Dr. Stahlbaum (and the King) with verve and attitude, he’s the perfect host even when dealing with some of the over indulged guests. Mrs. Stahlbaum and the Queen are played by John Heginbotham, who is appropriately genteel, with a range of irony and emotion in both character/s. A highlight of the show is the family housekeeper and nurse, played by Brandon Randolph en pointe, who brings a distinctive individual electricity to the characters. Drosselmeier is dynamically played by Billy Smith and so vulnerable in a beautiful pas de deux with Aaron Loux’s Young Drosselmeier when they follow a diagonal path as a mirror image – balletic and elegant. Marie, played by Lauren Grant is sweet and innocent, who has some tough times following her dreams. Her solo to Sugar Plum Fairy music is a delight with precision footwork and graceful extensions.

The Hard Nut ballet by Mark Morris returns to Cal Performances
December 15-24,2017 (Photo by Frank Wing)

The Hard Nut is brilliantly designed and a visual feast! Sets designed by Adrianne Lobel are striking and include a giant purple flower descending from above, forced perspective walls, a huge black circular setting with several side openings for dancers to enter and exit – most notably the Snow scene. Ah, yes, the Snow scene…when dancers in white tutus with black edging and white  pointy head-dresses leap across the stage gently throwing endless confetti snow into the air – it’s a marvelous sight to behold! Every single costume is detailed and creative, with costume design by Martin Pakledinaz. At the party dancers as guests wear green, red, white and black costumes inspired by the 70s, and towards the end the ensemble of Flowers wear chartreuse and fuchsia colored petal dresses. Lighting design by James F. Ingalls creates mood and drama.

The thirty dancers of Mark Morris Dance Group perform to live music played throughout by the Berkeley Symphony, with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, Ensemble, during the first half of the show, conducted by Colin Fowler.

This is a super, high energy, (at times tongue in cheek) spirited and highly imaginative entertaining show for everyone to enjoy. The dance, physical storytelling, fascinating gender bending characters and style of the production are terrific. A must see show this season!

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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About the Author

Jo TomalinOriginally from England Jo Tomalin is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a reviewer for Dance & Theatre at www.ForAllEvents.com & www.FringeReview.com - she works in the performing arts as a freelance movement & voice specialist, director + actor. She is also a Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at San Francisco State University, teaching Movement for actors, Voice, Storytelling, Business of Acting and Acting and directs. Jo Tomalin studied Classical Acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London; and holds a teacher's diploma (ATCL) in Voice and Acting from Trinity College of Dramatic Art, London. She studied Classical Ballet for 12 years; Graduated from London University's Laban Centre Teaching Credential program in Modern Dance, Art of Movement & Choreography; Trained in Physical Theatre, Masks, Scenography and Devised theatre at the renowned professional acting school "Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq" Paris, France. Jo holds a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University and a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning from Capella University, MN.View all posts by Jo Tomalin →