The Nutcracker

on November 24, 1993 by Ann Kwinn
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   The staging in this production is blocky, and that blocking is weird. The battle between the soldiers and mice is crowded and confused. A couple waltzes through. The action is close up and adds to a general sense of "What the...?"
   Mechanical toys and circus acts at the delicious spun-sugar palace are whimsical, but one wants to cry, "Bring on the dancing girls!" Or candy canes or the Nutcracker prince, who here is not agile but a stiff thing made of wood. The expectation for "The Nutcracker" ballet elements is too strong to break without good reason. Without these elements, the audience looks to character interplay, but the acting is often false. The parents bicker. Uncle Drosselmeier mugs. The extras romp.
   Eight-year old Clara is too young to be on the brink of adolescence, leaving her childhood toys for a real live prince. Uncle Drosselmeier does not play the genius toymaker with concern and perhaps longing for his plain niece. This ceremony is all spectacle. The stars are inanimate objects; the handsome costumes and properties that move across the camera. "The Nutcracker" is only a museum come to life, perhaps due to having the direction and writing done by someone who also handles costume and production design. To their credit, Imax movies feature more people these days in their really big shows, but you just don't turn Tchaikovsky into the Ringling Brothers, or that's all you'll have: a really big show.    Starring Miriam Margolyes, Heathcote Williams, Lotte Johnson and Benjamin Hall. Directed and written by Christine Edzard. Produced by Olivier Stockman and Lorne Orleans. An Imax Corp. release. Drama. Not) rated. Running time: 37 min. Format: 3-D IMAX. "The Nutcracker" has remained one Christmas tradition in which dance is king except in the new IMAX movie, "The Nutcracker," which shows almost a contempt for dance, putting off the dance numbers until the last scene and using them merely as holiday trimming. Eliminating the dancing and retaining the visual elements of the (frankly) strange original ballet leaves nothing but the strangeness. The story is of a young girl who receives a nutcracker doll for Christmas from an eccentric uncle. The nutcracker leads a battalion of toy soldiers in a victorious fight against a group of mice and then leads the girl off to a fantasy land filled with more exotic characters.
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