It’s been several years since East County residents have had the pleasure of seeing a professional production of “The Nutcracker” ballet without being required to drive over the hill. But that changed on Dec. 8 and 9, when Peninsula Ballet Theatre (PBT) brought its production to the Creative Arts Building in Pittsburg.
I had the pleasure of seeing this ballet performed by the Theatre Ballet of San Francisco (TBSF) five years ago at that same venue. TBSF put on an excellent show, but the big thing that was lacking was that Tchaikovsky’s glorious melodies and orchestrations were squeezed out of loudspeakers.
PBT’s production might have lacked some of the polish and pageantry of TBSF’s performance, but it was more than made up for by the inclusion of a live, 36-piece orchestra.
Ably led by Chris Christensen, the musicians did right by Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, especially the woodwinds and brass. The main concession to economics was the use of a synthesizer for the children’s voices in “The Waltz of the Snowflakes.” But the price of the ticket was worth it just to hear a live orchestra in East County playing such lively, hummable music.
Ironically, Peter Iliyich Tchaikovsky was reportedly not that happy to take the commission to write music for a fairy tale ballet about a little girl, a heroic nutcracker and an evil rat, and he wasn’t overly pleased with the outcome when he finished the score 115 years ago. But it’s safe to say that the ballet is by far the most popular music he wrote, especially the tuneful miniatures that comprise “The Nutcracker Suite.”
But most of those in the packed theater were there for the dancing, and the PBT did quite well. One of the standouts was Antioch native Terrin McGee-Kelly as the Sugar Plum Fairy, a role she danced five years ago with TBSF. The other highlight was Mariko Takahashi as the Snow Queen.
The amazing thing about a good ballerina is that she makes incredibly difficult feats – such as motionlessly balancing her entire body while standing on the tip of the toes of one foot – look easy. Of course, she’s helped by a male partner who must do all the grunt work, the heavy lifting that helps her look lighter than air.
The performance was a benefit to raise funds to finish restoring the seats in the Creative Arts Building, as well as for a Ferris wheel in Small World Park in Pittsburg.
While the El Campanil Theatre in Antioch has become the premiere performance venue in East County, the much larger Creative Arts Building with its orchestra pit is also a treasure worth preserving. For more information on the theater’s restoration project, call 427-7328 or visit www.phs-catheatre.org.