During the overture of Ballet Chesapeake’s new production of “The Nutcracker,” the narrator exclaims to the audience, “I do love Christmastime, don’t you?” The answer is yes, especially when it brings with it such a beautifully traditional, thoroughly charming version of the classic ballet.
This staging opens with a family tableau on Christmas Eve. Against the backdrop of a beautifully adorned tree, Clara (Rory Geissler) and the Silberhaus family busily finish the last preparations for their Christmas party. Guests arrive, including Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer (Gene Cockerham), a man of magic and mystery. After entertaining the guests with his dancing toys, he presents Clara with a Nutcracker doll, to her delight. Creeping downstairs to visit her doll that night, under the Christmas tree, Clara is swept up into Drosselmeyer’s magic, which transforms her to the size of the rats and mice scurrying around the tree. The Nutcracker (Timmy Strickler), brought to life, does battle against the Rat King, and is transformed into a prince upon winning the battle. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince (Kiegen Kepner) then make their way through the enchanted lands of snow and sweets.
… a beautifully traditional, thoroughly charming version of the classic ballet.
The use of a narrator will make the more intricate plot details of the first half accessible to younger audience members, though there is much for audiences of all ages to enjoy. The battle between the devious, red-waist coated Rat King and Nutcracker is as enjoyable thrilling as it should be, including real (fake) canon fire.
Barclay Gibbs’ choreography allows the dancers room to breathe, and combined with the set design, this results in some stunning tableaux. Clara and her Prince’s interlude in the Christmas Wood, which sees a pas de deux of the Snow King (special guest Bilal Smith) and Queen (Emily Bealer) framed by falling snow, is a dreamy picture postcard.
Arriving in the plum-pink Land of Sweets in the second half, Clara and her Prince are welcomed by its benevolent ruler, the Sugarplum Fairy (Sara Michelle Murawski) and her Cavalier (Matthew Golding), as well as her brightly costumed subjects. Sugarplum’s solo, set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic music box melody, is beautifully haunting thanks to Murawski’s elegant technique.
Sugarplum’s subjects introduce themselves to the newcomers, with gifts and dances showcasing their distinct personalities. The engaging, diverse set-pieces are all delightful in equal measure. Special standouts include Margaux Miller’s Arabian dance, a technically impressive solo performed in a minor key with movement accentuated by a gauzy scarf. By contrast, the Peppermint Corps, outfitted in candy stripes and pom-poms, brings an infectious cheerfulness to the stage.
This sequence of dances concludes with Sugarplum and her Cavalier’s dramatic pas de deux. Special guest Matthew Golding is superb as the Cavalier, ably partnering Murawski and allowing her to shine bright as the star dancer of the show.
As Clara’s dreamy fantasy comes to a close, it will leave audiences with a sense of magic and fun. You may miss it, but like Christmas, we can look forward to it returning next year.
Running Time: about 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission.
“The Nutcracker” ran through Sunday, Dec. 9th at Towson University.