ORLANDO — When it comes to a holiday production of “The Nutcracker,” Robert Hill said, audiences know exactly what they want.
And it is not, he said, experimentation or radical departments from tradition.
And he plans to deliver, and give them exactly what they look forward to every Christmas season.
“It’s going to basically do the same thing it did last year,” Hill said of the upcoming production of “The Nutcracker” being performed by the Orlando Ballet. “It’s considered a sort of a traditional ‘Nutcracker.’ I have not tried to update it, or tried to do a funny twist on it or anything like that — and there are several things like that out there now.”
But Hill, the artistic director of the Orlando Ballet, said he knows audiences don’t want this beloved holiday favorite, with the popular score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, to deviate much from what they’ve always come to expect.
“For the general public, they look forward to this general tradition year after year,” he said.
The Orlando Ballet will be performing “The Nutcracker” at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, starting on Thursday, Dec. 15. What Hill said he is promising is a very high energy, meticulously choreographed performance.
“It’s going to the point where the dancing is going to be very high level,” Hill said. “That’s one of the things I think is very important for this company.”
In addition to the dancers, Hill said, there would be a carefully designed production on the Bob Carr’s massive stage.
“The production is a very pretty one,” he said. “The snow is beautiful. The fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King is very funny.”
That, he said, is what the Orlando Ballet is really offering audiences at the Bob Carr: a very high quality version of a classic – because he knows his company is not the only one doing this show.
“There are very successful productions of ‘The Nutcracker’ all over the United States — and the world, really,” he said.
Despite all the hard work that’s going into this production, Hill said rehearsing “The Nutcracker” is less challenging than Orlando Ballet’s last major piece: “Vampire’s Ball,” a Halloween-themed production that was performed in October.
“Vampire’s Ball” was an original piece choreographed and staged by Hill, designed to be a marriage between ballet and one of popular culture’s favorite themes in the fall: the tale of terror.
It turned out to be a big hit for Orlando Ballet.
“I think it was a world-record time to create a ballet,” he said. “I was shaking in my boots until I get it out of my head.
Given the fact that ‘The Nutcracker’ is recreating something that exists, it takes less time, and it’s all there. The learning process is much quicker. We’re in pretty good shape with it.”
The same production team that worked on “Vampire’s Ball” is back for “Nutcracker,” which helps, Hill said.
“We have a great team, a production director and lighting designer who are terrific,” he said. “The wardrobe for the ‘Vampire’s Ball,’ she really pulled out all the stops, and it all came together. It was kind of a risk to take on such a popular theme, but I’m really thrilled with how it turned out. We’re still getting comments on it, and people want to see it again, so we will bring it back next year.”
In the meantime, “The Nutcracker” is being performed at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre at 401 Livingston St. in downtown Orlando, with music by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. The visions of Sugarplum fairies, the Cavelier, and the Snow King runs from Dec. 15-18. The Orlando Ballet is also bringing audiences “The Nutcracker in our Family Series,” offering a version in just under one hour on Dec. 17-18 at 11 a.m., also at Bob Carr.
For tickets, call 407-426-1739 or log on to Orlando Ballet.
And once 2011 is over, Hill said, the Orlando Ballet is ready to launch into an ambitious spring season as well.
“We will be going straight into the production of ‘Battle of the Sexes part III,’ which is the end of the trilogy,” he said. “And then we’ll finish the year in April with ‘Swan Lake.’ ”
Hill admits it’s an ambitious, sometimes grueling, schedule to keep pace with.
“I ask myself why sometimes,” he laughed. “Our production of ‘Battle of the Sexes’ is something I’m going to have to create from top to bottom, and ‘Swan Lake’ is a shortened version that I created when I did this ballet in Mexico. It proved to be very, very successful, so I’m staging that for the Orlando Ballet.”
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