Review: The Nutcracker (National Ballet of Canada)

The National Ballet of Canada delivers the perfect Christmas show in the Nutcracker at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre

When I was five my mom enrolled me in a ballet class, which other than being excited about wearing a pink tutu, was definitely not my thing. In an attempt to somehow infect her love of the art form into me, I was dragged to see a performance during which I was extremely bored and shushed the entire time. I was not impressed. Since then I have never really been keen on attending the ballet but when an opportunity to watch the The National Ballet of Canada‘s Nutcracker came up I somehow couldn’t pass it up.

And I’m so glad I didn’t. The almost 30 year old me had a very different take on the ballet. I really enjoyed it and seeing so many kids in the audience really getting into the show and then being shushed by their parents made me chuckle to myself. 

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker was first performed in Russia 120 years ago and the fact that the piece can still delight audiences today and remain synonymous with Christmas is quite impressive. The entire show is like a dreamy fairytale. It’s a delight for the senses. The sets, the costumes and the music just blow you away and transport you to a fuzzy happy time somewhere in your childhood. Not your real childhood either but a more enchanted, magical one.

The dancers are all so graceful including the kids who don’t miss a step. The thing with the ballet is that every flaw is so easy to spot but I didn’t notice any. The Sugar Plum fairy (Heather Ogden) and the Snow Queen (Xiao Nan Yu) solos are magnificent. As are Uncle Nikolao (Jiri Jelinek) and the Nutcracker (Guillaume Cote).

I was also surprised to see the two kids that play Marie (Rebekah Bloomfield) and Misha (Simon McNally) deliver their choreography to perfection and there weren’t any moments of confusion or second guessing which can happen with kids especially in a show with so much dancing and such a big cast.

The program offers some interesting stats about the National Ballet’s version of the show that I found fascinating. For example Lauren Toto shares that every performance includes 60 children aged seven to 15 for a total of 286 kids this year alone. This translates into three or four different casts of children for each season! That’s got to be a lot of work but so very rewarding for the kids involved.

During the intermission the little sheep from the show came out to the lobby and mingled and took pictures with the kids. There was even a black sheep which was adorable. The kids had a blast.

I like that the staff is so kid-friendly and provide booster seats for the children so they can see better. This one child thanked the usher for bringing her one during the intermission and explained that the only reason she stood up was because she couldn’t see otherwise she would never consider standing up during a performance. Too cute, kids these days are like mini adults.

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a beautiful venue and from what I could tell there are no bad seats. So even if you can’t splurge for a premium seat it is still the perfect night out for the holidays, whether it’s with family and friends or the little ones in your life, it’s a great excuse to get all dressed up and spend a magical night in the city.


The Nutcracker is playing at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St W) till Janaury 5, 2013.
– Performances run Wednesday to Sunday at varying times with additional matinees on weekends. There is no performance on Wednesday, December 26th. Please see schedule for times.
– Tickets range from $52 – $136 for adults and $37.50 – $102 for children under 15. Rush tickets are available for $35 & standing room tickets are only $12.
– Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by calling 1-866-345-9595 or online.

Photo of Heather Ogden by Bruce Zinger