Theater Review: The Nutcracker Ballet

Melissa Garrett

As young girls danced, their bouncing curls tied up with colored ribbons, and young men resembling little soldiers engage them to dance, the opening party scene brings the joy of gift-giving as children and adults alike celebrate Christmas.

A banner reading, “Heaven Bless You, Merry Christmas,” hangs above the merry scene, and dancers, young and old, dance while holding hands and smiling broadly as they glide around the room.

Young Clara is easily spotted among the young girls when her uncle bestows a toy nutcracker upon her and she dances around to show everyone. All dancers express their emotions by pantomiming, where happiness, sadness and anger are exaggerated by swiftness of steps or graceful turns and body extensions. When Clara’s brother, Fritz, breaks her nutcracker, Clara’s face fills with anguish as she shows everyone her broken toy, until her uncle mends it and Clara falls asleep by the Christmas tree.

For the first half of the ballet, young Clara becomes the focus when her dream and nutcracker come to life and all of the toys become life-sized. The dream sequence begins when fog emerges onto the scene and mice infiltrate the stage menacingly, scaring Clara, as the Christmas tree grows, rising up to impossibly high heights. Clara and the nutcracker battle the mice dressed in grey, whose pillowed costumes resemble in appearance to sumo wrestlers, as the nutcracker and his fellow soldiers manage to win the battle against the Mouse King.

As snow gently fell onto beautiful ballerinas dressed in glittering white tutus, the snow dancers effortlessly leapt and spun around the stage and created the illusion of moving snowflakes as Clara and the nutcracker watched before they rode away on a sleigh at the end of Act I.

In Candyland, Act II begins and the Sugar Plum Fairy offers Clara a seat on her throne, while a series of dancers from around the world—some of the most impressive being the group of Irish girls and the Arabian dancers—dance unique and varied routines. Somewhat forgotten in the background, Clara watched each routine with pleasure, keeping high levels of energy even while sitting and stood to curtsey to the dancers after each dance.

Joy Voelker Matossian and Matthew Prescott could not have been more perfectly cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Both commanded the attention of the audience by making effective use of the stage and smiled brilliantly throughout their flawless routines.

With facial expressions as engaging as their movements, Matossian and Prescott performed daring spins and leaps, as Prescott gracefully lifted Matossian into the heavens and she extended into beautiful poses in the air and elegantly melted into his arms.  

Many in the audience enjoyed Christmas cake pops and cotton candy treats during the ballet and could taste the sweetness of Candyland while enjoying a well-balanced mixture of cute little kid routines, more advanced older dancer routines and professional dances.  

Varied dancers of all ages and levels of difficulty contributed to the memorable quality of The Nutcracker Ballet and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic score by creating a captivating and unforgettable performance on the Stephens Auditorium stage.

After watching The Nutcracker Ballet for the first time, it is no wonder why audiences keep coming back to see the classic tale of Clara and her nutcracker.