The New York Times
The Culture At Large
Published: December 23, 2010
By: Alastair Macaulay
LAS VEGAS — “All is calm, all is bright, Round yon Virgin …” Sinatra sings ill-advisedly amid the hubbub of my hotel lobby. In what’s said to be Las Vegas’s quiet season, this is one of the busy days. In the vast pool in front of the Bellagio, hundreds of fountains are dancing like Rockettes to the “Hallelujah” chorus.
Paris Las Vegas has whole streets, boulevards, precincts, as well as innumerable shops and restaurants. Fortunately it’s easy, within this, to find the Théâtre des Arts – lined with reproductions of Madame de Pompadour and other Parisian celebrities (as well as Barry Manilow). The Nevada Ballet Theater has been dancing one “Nutcracker” or another here for several decades, and if the times didn’t clash I could also catch another production in the city this day, by Anaheim Ballet. People who meet me in the lobby laugh at their own surprise to have found that Las Vegas contains two productions, and they assure me too that within this brash noisy city there’s a friendly small town.
The production here is by Peter Anastos, artistic director of Ballet Idaho. His company danced it earlier this month in Boise, but I wasn’t able to see it then and since I’ve never visited Las Vegas either, this is my opportunity to catch both the city and the Anastos “Nutcracker.” He is enduringly celebrated as founding director-choreographer (and a lead ballerina) of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, but has also been choreographing non-drag and classical ballets around the nation for 30 years.
And there’s no drag in this “Nutcracker” – not even a Mother Ginger. His Snow scene is the most collectedly classical response to the music I’ve ever seen, with the Snow Queen and Snow King and male and female Snowflakes much more concerned with maintaining a calmly imperial order than in surrendering to the whirl and gathering storm of Tchaikovsky’s music drama.
Despite some reordering of music in both acts and an interpolation from “The Sleeping Beauty,” this is a clear, efficient production. The Stahlbaums live in a minor palace (but with a painted Christmas tree); the Nutcracker is an adult even when he’s presented to Clara in doll form; she’s an adult too. It all works.
Admittedly, it’s not very Vegas – several “Nutcrackers” are more over the top than this — but Mr. Anastos’s professional skill shows best in the lively individuality of all the Act 2 divertissements. There are some child bakers who assemble a three-tier cake, and each of the national dances arrives with its own retinue of children.
But the adult Nevada dancers are warm, clean, and strong. I must confess I had expected a much less accomplished trouple. And here’s a touch that’s not just Vegas but basic showbiz: They and Mr. Anastos know – amazingly few do – how to make the ballet’s finale the real climax of all that has gone before. When they return to the stage, it’s not just more of the same. They seem recharged.