THE CONCERT BALLET OF VIRGINIA: The Nutcracker
Observations on the Nutcracker, 43rd Annual Production by Julinda D. Lewis
At: Atlee High School Theatre, 9414 Atlee Station Rd., Mechanicsville, VA 23116
Performances: December 14, 15, 20-21, 2019
Ticket Prices: $12-24
I’ve seen many of the Concert Ballet of Virginia galas, and even the pared-down excerpts of The Nutcracker, but this is the first time I’ve seen their full-length version of the holiday classic.
Synopsis: The Silberhaus’ host their annual Christmas party, attended by their children Clara and Fritz and an assortment of family and friends. Clara receives a pair of dancing slipper and her brother received a sword and a mechanical rat – which he and his friends promptly put to use terrorizing the girls. A family friend, the mysterious Drosselmeyer, arrived late and gives Clara a Nutcracker that has magical powers. When all the guests have gone home, Clara comes to retrieve her Nutcracker, but it comes to life and takes Clara on a Christmas adventure filled with soldiers and horses, battling mice, a Snow Queen, a Sugar Plum Fairy, a Cavalier, and other fantastic characters.
The familiar score by Tchaikovsky and traditional choreography after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov as conceived by the late deVeaux Riddick captured and held the attention of the audience made up predominantly of families with young children. The story of Clara and her mischievous little brother Fritz is filled with humorous scenes that a young audience can relate to, and the magic of the mildly menacing family friend, Drosselmeyer, keeps the story interesting.
The variety of the “Divertissements” in Act II (Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian, and Mother Ginger – here called Mother GingGong – along with acrobatic clowns and waltzing flowers) allows for a display of diverse genres and the multiple abilities of this community dance company (all unsalaried), “operating within the framework of a professional dance company.”
The scenery, by artistic director Scott Boyer and costumes (by a full team consisting of Erline Eason, Cecil Carter, Jill Driskill, Patricia Morris, Kay Allen, Mary Beth Rhyne, Ann Reid, Corinne Abernathy, Kim Gangloff, and Tracey Latham) were a beautiful treat for the eyes. They even engineered snow falling gently on the Snowflakes corps de ballet scene.
The Nutcracker is often a young dancer’s – or audience member’s – first exposure to ballet, and this production, while lacking in virtuoso technique and clarity and definition of line, is a visual and musical treat that just might stimulate the interest of new young dancers and future balletomanes.
Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer who was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Eastern Henrico County.
Photo Credits: Concert Ballet of Virginia Facebook page