A Holiday Tradition with a Hawaiian Twist
Thursday, December 12 at 6:00pm ANGEL PROGRAM performance Friday, December 13th at 7:30pm Saturday, December 14th at 7:30pm Sunday, December 15th at 2:00pm at the Blaisdell Concert Hall
Celebrate the Holidays with Ballet Hawaii’s lavish Hawaiian-themed Nutcracker presented in the 1858 Kingdom of Hawaii. The production is choreographed by Septime Webre with guest artists from New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Carolina Ballet and accompanied by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.
What better way to celebrate the Holidays than by combining a timeless Nutcracker with the grandeur and elegance of the Hawaiian monarchy? Audiences can anticipate all the traditional holiday dances, but with historical characterizations of Washington Place resident Mary Dominis and Hawaii’s beloved Queen Lili’uokalani. In this production, the flowers are Crown Flowers, Hibiscus and Plumeria. The birds are I’iwi and new island animal performers are introduced, such as the Honu (sacred Hawaiian Turtle). The toy soldier uniforms are patterned after those of the Royal Guard and the famous Waltz of the Snowflakes takes place atop the slopes of Mauna Kea. It is truly a delight to behold!
The inspiration for this special performance came when the creative team learned that Mary Dominis held a Christmas Eve children’s party at Washington Place in 1858. At the party, Hawaii’s first Christmas tree was lit with candles as Saint Nicholas passed out candies and gifts for all.
A customized production of this quality would not be possible without the support of such sponsors as The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Cades Foundation, Marriott Hotels & Resorts Waikiki, and many others.
A note from Ballet Hawaii’s Artistic Director:
Once again, I would like to present to you this historical adaptation of a traditional holiday ballet, The Nutcracker. In celebration of Ballet Hawaii’s 40th anniversary I sought to develop a fresh, new, and engaging version of this much loved, timeless story. I knew that Septime Webre had a passion and quest for incorporating historical facts within traditional storylines, in a whimsical and unique way. I also knew he had the ability to take us all on a delightful journey. I think he succeeded and I hope you do too.
– Pamela Taylor-Tongg, Artistic Director
A note from the Choreographer:
Ballet Hawaii Artistic Director, Pam Taylor-Tongg, got my attention when she invited me to create a new adaptation of The Nutcracker for Ballet Hawaii. She suggested that the party scene be based on a Christmas Eve party in 1858, hosted by Mary Dominis at her home, Honolulu’s historic Washington Place. Her home would eventually become the home of her daughter-in-law, the future Queen Lili’uokalani, and subsequently Hawaii’s Governor’s Mansion. That party featured Hawaii’s first recorded Christmas tree and included 100 Hawaiian children as guests. The story of this party inspired us to reimagine The Nutcracker as a fresh reflection and celebration of Hawaiian history and the gifts of its natural environment. Typically, ballet is not a good medium to teach history. Even in narrative works, the language of ballet is metaphorical rather than literal. Rather than present a historical tale, this Nutcracker uses Hawaii as a context and backdrop for the dreams of a young girl who comes of age.
In 1858, the widowed Mary Dominis ran Washington Place as a boarding house where foreign dignitaries would live while in Honolulu. She lived there with her son, John Owen Dominis, who would marry the future Queen Lili’uokalani 4 years later. In our story, Consul Herr Silberhaus, himself a widower, comes to Washington Place, as a boarder, along with his children, Clara and Fritz, and his eccentric grandfather. And so Clara’s journey begins.
Throughout the production, we have adapted many traditionally European elements, to reflect Hawaii, and references to Hawaiian history, culture, and its environment abound. I have a few favorites among them: reflecting Lili’uokalani’s status as a pianist and composer, she presents Clara with a charming toy piano; the snow scene takes place at the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii; a majestic pueo (Hawaiian Owl) makes a grand entrance in a banyan tree during the party scene; on her journey, Clara encounters dancing hibiscus, orchids, crown flowers (Lili’uokalani’s favorite), and a Sugar Plumeria Fairy; and at the end of her journey, Clara is transported home by a white fairy tern – an elegant bird which populates the gardens of Washington Place. The designs for the Rat King and the Nutcracker slyly reference Captain James Cook, and Hawaiian hero Robert Wilcox who defended the monarchy in 1895, and the battle scene is fought between an army of Iolani Palace guards and a pack of South Seas Pirate Rats. Act II’s oversized trumpet flowers were inspired by our friend, Mary Philpotts McGrath’s real-life garden, which was in full bloom as we began the design process, and the lush tropical garden is populated with delightful Hawaiian creatures: a nene goose, marching geckos, a hermit crab, baby sea turtles, and a school of clown fish. And indulging in a bit of autobiography, Clara’s grandfather is depicted as a Scotsman, reflecting my Cuban-American grandfather’s Scottish roots. This production of The Nutcracker is meant to be a celebration of who we are as a community. We are so glad you are here to share it with us, and we hope you and your loved ones enjoy a magical holiday season.
– Septime Webre, Choreographer