On the heels of Ballet West’s critically acclaimed opening of “The Nutcracker” at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in early December, the company has returned to Salt Lake City to share the magic of Willam Christensen’s holiday favorite with Utah audiences.
Holding the distinction of being the first and longest-running full-length production of “The Nutcracker” in America, viewers will delight in Ballet West’s staging of this magical tale about Clara and her Nutcracker Prince.
Heather Thackeray, Student Ballet Mistress at Ballet West, who instructs the nearly 300 young people who take part in the annual production feels, “Inside of The Nutcracker story is magic, warmth and love and it brings people together.”
For 63 years, families have gathered together to watch loved ones perform and celebrate the wonder of what is today more than 180 costumes and nearly 200 props highlighted in the Capitol Theatre—thanks to a $3 million retooling of the sets and costumes in 2017. From a giant mechanical ballerina and bear to an army of mockingly menacing mice, Act One is filled with entertainment and action to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
As Clara saves the Nutcracker Prince from injury and death at the hands of the Mouse King, she embarks on a fanciful journey to a magical kingdom where she meets the Snow Queen and King (Principals Emily Adams and Adrian Fry on opening night) as the Swarovski crystal-bedazzled Snowflakes dance in unison to one of composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s most famous scores—the Waltz of the Snowflakes.
Supported by the glittering intricacies of the Snowflakes’ lines and the delicate wintery scene surrounding them, Adams and Fry were breathtaking in their fluid lifts and graceful footwork.
Clara and the Nutcracker Prince then enter the Land of the Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Principals Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell) showcase exotic divertissements from around the world.
From monkeys serving overflowing platters of treats to Mirlitons performing the well-known Dance of the Reed Flutes, Act Two is always a feast for the eyes.
Spring-loaded Spanish dancers led by demi-soloist Hadriel Diniz leap to new heights while the sultry Arabian Dance features a slight-of-hand by way of scarves.
A perpetual audience favorite, the Russian dancers once again bounded into the hearts of the audience while the adorable bumblebees hidden beneath the skirt of Mother Buffoon had the audience all abuzz.
A more politically correct version of the Chinese Tea Dance led by acrobatic Chinese warrior (first soloist Tyler Gum) made its debut this year followed by the brightly colored 36-foot-long dragon operated by seven dancers.
As Clara prepares to say her final goodbyes to her Nutcracker dream world, she is treated to a final show of gratitude for saving the prince. Principals Katherine Lawrence and Christopher Ruud dance the gorgeous Waltz of the Flowers pas de deux before real-life couple Sisk and O’Connell close the show with their flawlessly executed grand pas de deux.
A role which principal ballerina Arolyn Williams, who will dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy for her 8th year on Christmas Eve says, “is probably one of the hardest rolls I’ve done. The stamina you have to have is really challenging.”
To experience the magical journey of Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” yourself, matinee and evening performances continue through Dec. 29; evening performances at 7 p.m.; matinees 2 p.m. with special performances on Dec. 23 at noon and 5 p.m. and Dec. 24 at noon; no performances on Dec. 25. For more information and tickets, visit balletwest.org