There is something special about Christmas time in America. The sudden change to cooler weather, front yards being decorated with huge reindeer, santas and a million lights, and the endless social gatherings and events to get everyone into the spirit of Christmas.
It kicks off with the US’s favorite holiday and food-fest that is Thanksgiving during the last weekend in November and goes full boar for 4 weeks until Christmas Day. In fact sometimes Christmas can feel like an anti-climax with all the activities and celebrations in the leading weeks – Americans certainly have this time of year down pat. Whilst it can certainly be overwhelming, I love the eagerness and opulence in celebrating this time of year here and found the best way to enjoy it was to take in as many traditional festive activities as possible.
One of my favorite Christmas events last year was Houston Ballet’s version of ‘The Nutcracker’. I had only been to the ballet once, a long time ago and wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard great reviews about the Houston Ballet and knew a few Australians were involved so was keen to check out what went on in the Theatre District, Downtown.
Set in nineteenth century Germany, The Nutcracker opens at a charming family Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy(Nutcracker) that takes her on an unforgettable journey. Large dancing rats, soldiers, angels, the Nutcracker prince and the famous Sugar Plum Fairy guide Clara through many magical worlds. My favorite scenes are the amazing dancing by the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Spanish, Arabian and Chinese entertainers in Act II.
The sets and costumes are breathtakingly beautiful and take you right into this enchanted story. You will know most of the famous music by Tchaikovsky and the dancing is first class. You will leave understanding why Houston Ballet is considered one of the best in the country.
The Houston Ballet is America’s fourth largest ballet company. There is a strong Australian connection with the Artistic Director, Stanton Welch from Melbourne. Stanton has been with the Houston Ballet since 2003 and continues to work with the Australian Ballet and many other international ballet companies as one of the most highly acclaimed choreographers in the business. The Ballet Master is Steven Woodgate from Melbourne and aussie dancers include Danielle Rowe (Shepparton), Luke Ingham (Mt. Gambier) and Samantha Lynch (Melbourne). There are also many English, European and Asian staff and dancers to compliment the local US talent.
One of the nicest things about this ballet is that it is great to take the kids to. They will be entranced by the sets and costumes and there are many children performers on stage. It is recommended for children 2 years and over but more to the point is that kids need to be able to sit ‘quietly & happily’ for the 2 hr production, otherwise you may be ushered out to the foyer until the next intermission.
It pays to get to the theatre early as parking can be busy and you want to take in all the build up to showtime in the foyer. A good range of food and drinks are on offer and as you can’t take anything into the show, make sure you’ve had something, otherwise you will have to wait until the halftime intermission. The intermission goes for about 20 mins and to save time you can pre-order food and drink to be ready for you from one of the outlets.
The Nutcracker @ The Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas St at Smith St, Downtown
November 25th – December 27th 2011
Various days and discounted performances at 2.o0pm & 7.30pm – see website for details