I bought this ballet because I wanted to round out my Nutcracker collection. I already own the Baryshnikov/American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet versions and, of the three, this is by far the weakest and least interesting. The party scene is way too busy, and the costumes for the adults are unattractive, to say the least. The adults lack personality, and the children are underplayed. The NYCB production comes off much better here, even with the presence of Macauley Culkin. Real children appear in that ballet; the ABT version uses some of its younger corps members. But both of the other versions have lots of color. The party guests also appear to be having fun! Robert LaFosse and Heather Watts (NYCB) and Gayle Young and Sallie Wilson (ABT) are much better as the party's hosts.
The Kingdom of the Sweets falls way short. It is lavish, and the costumes are lush, but everything is colorless. The various dancers are almost indistinguishable from one another save for occasional touches like Russian boots and Spanish headscarves. Where are the candy canes? Where are Mother Ginger and the Polichinelles? Missing and very much missed. The dancing, however, is excellent, although Dowell is a fine danseur noble and excellent partner but does not have the good feet of Baryshnikov or young Ethan Stiefel. However, it could be Sleeping Beauty as far as anyone could tell who would be watching it without the music. The NYCB version is FAR superior. ABT's also is more watchable, although the ending is a little bizarre thanks to Baryshnikov's new interpretation. Unless you are a collector, do not buy this.