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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 19, 2003

'Nutcracker' to unwrap new sets

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

It's all set and ready to glow.

Peter Dean Beck's design for Act 1 of "Nutcracker" goes for an elegant but homey look — more like the residence of a mayor than a palace of Louis XIV. The Act 2 set, he said, offers a surprise.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

The new "Nutcracker" set at Ballet Hawaii's traditional production, that is.

"I understand the set was 25 years old, damaged over the years and falling apart," said Peter Dean Beck, who designed a spanking-new backdrop. The set and production will be on view for three days, starting tonight at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

"I've only seen the old set in video — but this was a great opportunity for me," said Beck, whose work has been very visible here — at Hawaii Opera Theatre, where his designs have framed at least 30 productions.

"The old set had gotten to the point where nobody felt comfortable with it," said John Parkinson, production manager who oversaw the building process, utilizing Beck's design.

"You might say the termites had their day. The audience will have a visual treat. Of course, you come for the dancing, but the set will be one to see."

Scenic artist Emi Okinaga of Kane'ohe works on part of Ballet Hawaii's new "Nutcracker" set at the Hawaii Opera Theatre's workshop on Waimanu Street.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Nutcracker" sets usually are built one scene at a time, often by multiple designers — so Act 1 could have a different vision from Act 2.

At Ballet Hawaii, $115,000 was committed to build a whole new set with all the accouterments for the yuletide favorite. A campaign is under way to raise the final $20,000.

"It gives me the opportunity to try to unify both acts, unify the design, bring the story together," the designer said.

For the party scene in Act 1, Beck said he wanted to create "a house that looks like a house, like reality, and it sets up Christmas for the rest of the show." The intent was to create a performance space that could conceivably be the home of, say, a mayor, not a palace that Louis XIV might have frequented. Homey is in.

"Act 2 is a fantasy, and the one problem I tried to resolve is that most productions have an Act 2 that tends to be unrelated to Act 1. I mean, it's not Christmas anymore. In the first act, there is the battle scene with the mice — kind of a Christmas nightmare for kids — in the second act, it's kind of like a Christmas dream. I've tried to make the second act the Christmas payoff to the first act."

Set designer Peter Dean Beck, left, worked with Pamela Taylor-Tongg, artistic director of Ballet Hawaii; and John Parkinson, "Nutcracker" production manager, who oversaw the building process using Beck's design.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

He won't say how. But the experience will be like opening a Christmas present, he said — with a lot of anticipation, since patrons will not know what The Look is like till curtain time.

"The 'Nutcracker' tends to be an event, a show that an audience really cares about. And that's what theater is — caring. Not just about your child in the cast, but caring about the show. It becomes hard to care about something you see over and over, so I hope the new set helps," Beck said.

Because he's based in New York and the set was built at HOT's Waimanu Street shop, there was constant e-mailing and phone calling with Parkinson.

"Everything I do is long-distance," Beck said of his craft. "Set designers seldom are on site when the set is being built — unlike, say, costumers. I make a scale rendering specific to the point. I pick the colors; everything is exactly laid out. I paint small, they paint big."

Only this week did he get a first glimpse of the results.

For HOT's 2004 season, starting Jan. 30 at Blaisdell Concert Hall, Beck has produced a new look for "Otello." And while HOT is renting the set for "Cosi Fan Tutti," it's his. "The Merry Widow" set won't be.

Reach Wayne Harada at 525-8067, wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com or fax 525-8055.

• • •

Premiering this weekend

• Ballet Hawaii with the Honolulu Symphony, at Blaisdell Concert Hall. Guest artists include the American Ballet Theatre's Xiomara Reyes as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and New York City Ballet's Joaquin De Luz as the Prince. Tickets are $25, $40 and $55.

  • 8 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. 521-8600, (877) 750-4400.
  • Also: On opening night, there will be a pre-performance dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Blaisdell Concert Hall. Tickets are $125, which includes VIP reserved parking, VIP seating at the ballet and a backstage, post-performance wine bar. 395-7216.

• Honolulu Dance Theatre's version, featuring King Kalakaua, Princess Ka'iulani and other historical figures, at the Hawai'i Theatre. Tickets are $16, $20 and $24 for adults, with a $4 discount for seniors, students, children and military.

  • 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. 528-0506.


• Hawaii State Ballet, at the Mamiya Theatre on the Saint Louis School campus. Tickets are $16, $18 and $22 for adults, with a $2 discount for seniors and children 12 and younger.

  • 7 p.m. today and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 947-2755.

• Hawaii Ballet Theatre, at Leeward Community College Theatre. Tickets are $24 general; $20 military, seniors and children; $12 students for evening shows.

  • 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday. 839-1596.