By Trevor W. Brackney
Ballet West’s The Nutcracker is this year’s must see holiday show! It is going on now through December 30, 2017 at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. Be sure to leap into action quickly, however, as this show has been experiencing record-breaking ticket sales, and justifiably so. For if you think you have seen this version of The Nutcracker, think again.
The perennial William Christensen classic has received a makeover whilst staying true to its original concepts and choreography. These changes, made possible by a generous grant from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, will pull you to the edge of your seat and into Clara’s fantasy.
This blend of tradition and innovation starts from the moment the lights dim. Projections by Mike Tutaj and lighting by Burke Brown make the curtain come to life right before your eyes and tells you that this is not going to be like anything you had expected. As the curtain proceeds to rise you are immediately taken out of the world you currently know and transported to the 1820’s with sets by John Wayne Cook and Dick and Belinda Bird. These sets are so fabulous that you cannot help but get caught up in Clara’s story, no matter how familiar you may be with it.
Another major overhaul are the costumes. Each and every one stunning in their own right. Do not be surprised when these designs by David Heuvel make your jaw literally drop and gasp at their splendor. It’s impossible to choose a favorite from among the adorable mice, the majestic Sugar Plum, or the vibrant and colorful Chinese. Whatever your choice, you will long to be up there, toe to toe with the dancers who don these gorgeous vestitures.
Tchaikovsky’s famous music is masterfully brought to life by the Ballet West Orchestra under the direction of Tara Simoncic, Jared Oakes and guest conductor Kory Katseanes. Not only do they complement Tchaikovsky by their artistry, but the dancers as well. Under their stewardship, the music and dance harmoniously marry together and symbiotically enhance every aspect of the performance.
Now the dancing…not enough can be said to give the caliber and quality of the dancing justice. Notable performances are seen throughout this production. From Joshua Whitehead’s acrobatic Chinese to Christopher Sellars‘ show-stopping Russian, the dancing will amaze all in attendance. Trevor Naumann and Jake Preece’s “Mother Ginger” is a particularly whimsical part of the show, where one can see just how well the dancing and costuming come together to make a perfect performance. The young Clara played by Kyra Stafford showed a maturity in ballet technique and command of the stage without giving up her youthful charm and innocence. You will appreciate the manner in which she is able to hold her own amongst very accomplished professionals.
You have to come see this Nutcracker if only to be given the opportunity to watch Emily Adams in the “Waltz of the Flowers.” Reminiscent of a young Margot Fonteyn, her stage presence radiates far beyond the proscenium, filling the whole interior of the Capitol Theatre. The essence of emotion that she is able to exude propels her perfect technique into a level all her own. When she is on stage it is nearly impossible to notice anyone else around her.
Capping the night off in perfect fashion is the “Grand Pas de Deux” performed by Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell. These two have incredible chemistry as they perform this final and great dance. Even though it is the most technically difficult and arduous part of the show, these two make it look so easy. They will fool you into thinking that you could possibly replicate their amazing feats of dancing and artistry as they make it look as if they are putting in only a minimal effort into every turn, leap and lift.
Utah is so privileged to have the likes of Ballet West in its midst and this year’s The Nutcracker demonstrates that perfectly. It truly has to be experienced in person in order to begin to appreciate it. I have seen dozens of renditions of this show and can tell you that I have never been so surprised, amazed and outright spellbound. My cheeks actually began to hurt because of the constant smile this performance gave me. I was not alone in my reaction either. I had almost as much fun seeing the rest of my fellow audiences members enjoy this performance alongside me.
I recommend dressing at the very least business casual. For a more enjoyable experience, however, go all out and really dress up. After all, its a night out at the ballet! The total run time for the performance is 1 hour and 49 minutes, including a 20 intermission. Concessions and souvenirs are available. Plan ahead and arrive early. Consider seasonal traffic congestion as the Capitol Theatre is in downtown Salt Lake City. Visit balletwest.org for more details and to purchase tickets.
Ballet West Presents The Nutcracker
Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, Salt Lake City, Utah
December 2 – 30, 2017, Start times vary
Recommended for ages 8 and up. Everyone must have a ticket. No-babes-in-arms. Patrons younger than 3 won’t be admitted.