With so many choices in holiday entertainment, we were excited to kick off this year's season of celebrating with La Boutique Fantasque, a charming family-oriented ballet performed by The Portland Ballet at Portland Center for the Performing Arts' Newmark Theatre.
Set in France in the early 1900s, La Boutique Fantasque, or The Enchanted Toyshop, opens with a group of excited children and their parents at the doors of a shop filled with toys and dolls. While the children play, the shopkeeper tries to convince the parents to buy something, but with no luck. Two of the children, frustrated that their parents will not allow them to take any toys home, decide to hide when the shop closes so that they may continue to play. They meet Pinocchio and spend the evening being entertained with dancing by all the toys. The parents eventually return searching for their children and are extremely angry with the shopkeeper, which he then blames on his wife, Amelie. He forces her to clean up the shop. She brightens her sadness by daydreaming about happier times while she sweeps, until Pinocchio calls on the Blue Fairy to make Amelie's dreams come true, changing her plain clothes to a shimmering gown. The shopkeeper returns to find his wife fleeing the shop with the Blue Fairy and enchanted toys. The performance concludes with the shopkeeper realizing his mistake and how much he misses her, Amelie returning to console her husband, and the two dancing together with renewed affection.
Not only is La Boutique Fantasque a great introduction to ballet for younger children (the show is just over an hour long with one intermission), it also features live music from the Portland State University Orchestra, which we felt was the highlight of the performance. The Newmark Theatre is also an intimate venue with great views from just about any seat. From our seats in the first balcony, we could easily enjoy the costumes and details of each dance without feeling like we were too far away.
The Portland Ballet offers three performances throughout the year, including a spring concert and masters workshop as well as the holiday program. Next year, the holiday program will switch to Scheherazade, based on "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp", kicking off a four-year rotating cycle which gives La Boutique Fantasque a few year's break.
For more information visit the Portland Ballet Website.
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