Midway through the first act of Mikko Nissinen's stunning new interpretation of Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker, giant mice appear one by one in the dark, surrounding the innocent, sleeping Clara and her precious new nutcracker. It's a brief yet terrifying scene for those of us that have never seen the famous ballet before and that fear normal-sized mice in real life, but it leads into one of the most breathtaking pieces of scenery you will ever see on stage: A majestic 40-foot-plus Christmas tree, adorned from top to bottom with jewels, lights, tinsel and plenty of Boston Opera House donation dollars.
Rejuvenation is the theme of this new iteration of The Nutcracker, which received new sets and costumes for the first time in almost two decades. Each scene -- from the spacious party room, to the shimmering whiteness of the enchanted forest, to the classical regality of the Nutcracker's court -- makes the stage seem bigger than it ever could be. The costumes glean with freshness, as the dirty Mouse King has the same magnificent detail as the sparkling Sugar Plum Fairy.
But it wouldn't be as impressive if the dancers couldn't keep up -- which they do, to say the least. Sabi Varga has a lot of fun as the mysterious Drosselmeier. Seo Hye Han exhibits the ultimate precision spinning en pointe as the Ballerina Doll. In Act II, Brittany Summer and Lasha Khozashvili contort their bodies around each other in the Arabian section, Issac Akiba leads his crew of Venus-fly-trapping leapers in the Russian section and a horde of Boston Ballet School students scurry out of the impressive undercarriage of Mother Ginger in her section.
By the time the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince delicately dance the night away together, you may think that, like Clara, you've been dreaming the whole time. But lucky for you, you won't be.
Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter @sweetestpete.