The holidays provide some of the happiest times in the year. After Thanksgiving, our bellies are full and we are feeling grateful for families and friends being near…all coming together to watch The Nutcracker. It’s especially memorable if they’ve come to watch a certain dancer.
There was only one early Christmas present that my daughter really wanted…to be a mouse again in the Nutcracker! I was grateful to have been overhearing a conversation from twenty little mice backstage as a “mouse mom.” The girls discussed their dream roles. Most of them have aspirations to be Clara but my little girl was content and thought being a mouse was the BEST role ever!
The sold-out audience was packed with little girls in their holiday dresses with red bows like Clara and sparkling tiaras like the Sugar Plum Fairy. LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s production of the Nutcracker was special this year…celebrating it’s twenty-fifth year with the classicism and innocence that it’s known for.
The ballet begins with a live orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s score is played by the Lewisville Lake Symphony’s orchestra lead by Adron Ming. These people don’t just play music; they are music. Listening to Tchaikovsky live enhances the full experience…his score is dessert for a theatrical feast.
The audience falls under the spell in Act I as it opens with a Christmas party at Clara and Fritz’s home. Uncle Drosselmeyer (Kenn Wells) entertains the children with a puppet show and he brings presents, including a Nutcracker Doll. Wells brings so much joy to his character and has the audience laughing out loud when he almost falls in to the orchestra pit. Clara (Carly Greene) wakes in the night to find her Nutcracker. Greene’s graceful arms and powerful pique turns make her a stunning Clara.
Strange things now happen and the whole stage is alive with magic…including the Christmas tree. Twenty hungry mice appear, lead by a charismatic Mouse King (Robert Stewart). The Nutcracker comes to life and leads an army of toy soldiers to fight the mice.
The Battle scene is Artistic director, Kelly Lannin’s favorite part to choreograph. The Nutcracker soldiers and twenty miceshooting canons, carrying off the wounded on stretchers and eating cheese all while worshiping their Mouse King.
The Nutcracker Prince (Jack Wolff) defeats the Mouse King and takes Clara to a magical land on a sleigh lead by angels, where snowflakes flirt rhythmically with the night sky. This was fifteen-year-old Wolff’s second year as the Nutcracker Prince. He was impressive last year and even more so this year…gaining power and strength.
Act II transports Clara into the Land of Sweets. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier introduce Clara to dances from around the world…Spain, Arabia, China, Russia and the Mirlitons dance from France. The entertainment finishes with the dance of the flowers and the Sugar Plum Fairy dances with her Prince before Clara returns home.
When Clara arrived in the Land of Sweets, the audience is delighted with more amazing partnering. Carley Denton and Ruben Gerding were spicy with sweet confection as “Spanish Chocolate”, Andre Harrigton’s flew high in “Russian Baba,” but it was the finesse of Faith Jones and Shannon Beacham in “Arabian Coffee” that still remains one of the favorite highlights of the Land of Sweets.
Another exciting surprise was the appearance of former Dallas Cowboys player, Isiah Stanback, as the role of Mother Ginger…wearing his Cowboys jersey and helmet! Stanback seemed right at home mothering his Polichinelles and throwing the football at the end. Score!
Guest artists Sarah Lane (American Ballet Theatre) and Daniel Ulbricht (New York City Ballet) broughtto Lewisville, Texas. How do they manage to make it appear so effortless when it actually required such concentration and effort. Ignoring the laws of physics (and gravity), Lane would strike an arabesque poised and perfect with the most beautiful arch to her foot. She appeared to glide across the stage with Ulbricht…every moment was the perfect picture. Ulbricht is agile, athletic and smooth…he has hang time in his tours en l’air. Watching them dance together created a tsunami of bliss…that’s the power of the Nutcracker. The audience becomes pleasantly intoxicated on dance.
My little mouse tells me after the battle scene that she had seen Sarah Lane backstage. “Mommy, I said hi to Sarah Lane and she said hi back to me. She smelled soooo good…just like a Sugar Plum!” The excitement backstage is energizing to the little dancers. They breathe in the atmosphere that is thick with hairspray and sometimes sweet like a Sugar Plum.
My little mouse was emotional after the last performance…she didn’t want it to be over. She sobbed herself to sleep saying it would be the last time to be a mouse with the same exact cast. When her friend, Chloe, asked her if she wanted to be in the Nutcracker again next year, her response was quick and enthusiastic…”YES, of course I do!” She is still excited for Christmas…she wiggles her mouse paws in the chilly December air just like a mouse. And just like that, it’s over. Dancers lug their makeup kits and plastic bags of snacks out of the stage doors to go home and have dreams of the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing in their heads…until next year.
Frohilich Weihachten from the Stahlbaums’ household!
Photo credit: Nancy Loch Photography