This year, we continued our family tradition of going to Ballet San Antonio‘s The Nutcracker with the San Antonio Symphony. We thoroughly enjoyed last year’s performance at the Majestic Theatre (earlier post), but this year’s move to the Tobin Center has even more to enjoy. Read more: “Our family tradition: Ballet San Antonio’s The Nutcracker”, Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, November 20, 2014. Last year, I jotted down some of F.T.’s comments about the show in this earlier post; this year, F.T. (now age 7) had some new insights, and little sister G.N. (age 4) joined the conversation, too.
First, let me recommend that when you buy your tickets, you also prepay for a valet parking pass—it will make your life so much easier. I’ve also tried parking in the garages and surface lots in the area, but it takes a few minutes to walk back to the Tobin Center. Just buy a valet parking pass ahead of time, and print it at home when you print your tickets. The Tobin Center also offers pre-show dining.
A few other mom comments about the Tobin Center: The box office staff are very courteous. And the seats are comfy.
As we passed through the doors of the Tobin Center, F.T. was momentarily alarmed.
Wait—I thought we were going to see Nutcracker! Isn’t that at the Majestic?
I reassured him that we were in the right place. Both kids were excited as we sat down for the show, settling in with a group of extended family.
Just before curtain time, we heard applause coming from the first few rows, where the audience has a view of the orchestra pit, as conductor Akiko Fujimoto walked to the podium. Then, she waved her baton above the orchestra pit, and we could see the thin stick from our seats, too; the entire hall broke out into applause. Unlike the Majestic, the Tobin has a full-sized orchestra pit, and the Symphony could bring all the musicians they needed to play the full orchestral score. The larger orchestra pit led to another nice surprise during the Waltz of the Snowflakes.
At beginning of Act I, F.T. asked:
“Who turned out the lights?”
G.N. enjoyed the Christmas party, and watching the parents and children dancing in festive costumes. F.T., my little engineer, was fascinated the dancing windup toys: the Doll, and Columbine and Harlequin.
F.T. was excited about the battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker, plus all the mice and soldiers. (For more about the children’s cast, listen to “172 Little Reasons To See This ‘Nutcracker'”, Nathan Cone, Texas Public Radio, November 25, 2014.)G.N. jumped out of her seat at the sound of the gunshot. At the height of the conflict, F.T. asked,
Is the Mouse King dead? Is the Nutcracker dead?
We reassured him that the Nutcracker was all right. F.T. was delighted to see the Nutcracker pushing Clara in a sleigh to the snowy pine forest.
More mom opinions here: The Waltz of the Snowflakes showed off the benefits of the Tobin Center’s larger orchestra pit. The Symphony had a fuller sound, and the acoustics of the Tobin Center carried the sound crisply throughout the hall. Another pleasant surprise: hearing the ethereal sounds of a children’s choir during the Waltz of the Snowflakes. On Saturday, the voices from the orchestra pit belonged to the Harlandale High School Choir, led by director Jacob Valadez.
F.T. was suprised when the lights came up for intermission. We explained that the show was not over; we were just taking a break, and then there would be another part. F.T. asked,
How many parts are there?
Just two, I assured him.
Mom’s note: compared to the Majestic, the women’s bathroom capacity is much improved. We stretched our legs by walking upstairs (but not into the exclusive Founders’ Lounge) and across the bridge for a view of the lobby and a lovely Nutcracker market, with proceeds benefitting Ballet San Antonio.
We found our seats again. At beginning of Act II, F.T. said:
Mom’s artistic notes: The Kingdom of Sweets provided a showcase for Ballet San Antonio’s principal dancers. During the Russian-themed candy cane dance, Jayson Pescasio amazed the audience with spinning kicks and jumps. (For some performances, Pescasio dances the Cavalier, which I’m sure is a treat to watch.) As Dew Drop, Sarah Pautz led the Waltz of the Flowers with elegance and grace. Ian Morris, as the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Cavalier, was an audience favorite, drawing whistles and cheers for his poise and athletics jumps and lifts. For more notes about the dancing, see “Review: Ballet San Antonio’s ‘Nutcracker'”, Jasmina Wellinghof, San Antonio Express-News, November 29, 2014.
The passages with the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier were also a showcase for the Symphony. Building softly from a small group of strings, the sound grew with winds and horns to a glorious peak. The Tobin Center allows the Symphony to perform with its full power and range.
As the groups of dancers came onstage, for Chocolate (Spanish), Coffee (Arabian), Tea (Chinese), etc., G.N. counted how many dancers were in each group, and reported the number to me. She is proud of her preschool math skills.
After the curtain fell, F.T. said:
It was fun!
That was great!
F.T., always the engineer, said he wants to build his own working Nutcracker.
After the show, if your kids still have the energy (mine didn’t), head to one of the Rotundas for a chance to meet the Nutcracker cast and pose for photos.
On the way home, I asked F.T. for more reflections about the performance. He said,
In real life, a nutcracker is just a toy. In make believe, the Nutcracker comes to life and kills the Mouse King.
Part of the joy of taking kids to see Nutcracker is that the world of make believe is still so close to the surface for them. The action on stage is so engaging; it holds their attention while they enjoy the beautiful music and dancing. I want to build a foundation for them to continue to enjoy classical music and the arts for a lifetime, and I look forward to continuing our family tradition by going to Ballet San Antonio’s Nutcracker again next year. I am grateful to the donors, especially H-E-B and its chairman, Charles C. Butt, for supporting ballet in San Antonio and making it accessible to children.
I encourage you to enjoy Ballet San Antonio’s Nutcracker while you can, through December 7, 2014; buy tickets online, by phone, or at the box office. Later this month, December 19-21, 2014, you can catch ARTS San Antonio’s The Nutcracker.
My family’s next holiday music experience will be the San Antonio Symphony’s Holiday Pops, December 19-21 at the Tobin Center. Here’s an earlier post about the 2013 holiday concert. For more ideas about arts and cultural events for families, see “Holidays in San Antonio: Arts and Cultural Activities for Families”, Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, October 27, 2014.
Ballet photo by Alexander Devora, Still Life Photography.