Ballet Chesapeake’s 2019 performance of “The Nutcracker” is an annual holiday favorite that is a must-see for audiences of all ages. Of course, it is a challenge for any ballet production to give the beloved Russian story any justice and certainly, Ballet Chesapeake has accomplished this rather nicely. Year after year, since its original commissioned “Nutcracker” performance in 1891, the labor of love continues to dazzle audiences in theatres all over the globe. Under the artistic direction of Barclay Gibbs, Ballet Chesapeake presented this heartwarming classic wonderfully and truly kicked off the Christmas season on December 14-15 with great enthusiasm and radiance.
The story centers on a girl, Clara (Natalie Fox), who receives a wooden soldier “Nutcracker” for Christmas from her magical uncle. The events that ensue are captivating as they are fantastic, and truly tugs at the heart of all who enjoy the spirit of Christmas. The Nutcracker is an exotic journey to a snowy fantasyland where extraordinary things dance and enchant audiences with wondrous choreography and sumptuous wardrobes. More than this, it is an event where memories are made with family and loved ones.
…Ballet Chesapeake’s version was a Christmas gem that locals shouldn’t miss the next time it comes around.
Stephens Hall Theatre at Towson University had its construction obstacles outside the building and surrounding areas, but inside all rows were abuzz with the electricity of holiday excitement and over-talkative spectators in the audience to boot. The show began with some narration from Grandmother Silberhaus (played by Diane Brown), and she also refreshingly dropped in at key points in the sequences. Aside from its ambitious, lovely stage scenery, which was creatively set by Tara Kully and Wendy Strickler, I thought the lighting and snow simulation effects immensely added to the beautiful dancing of the performers. Their costumes were not super glitzy, but rather charming as they drifted poetically across the stage.
The technique and choreography were impressive for the most part, as there were dozens of adorable and pretty skilled children ebbing and flowing through the various scenes. The Rat King (played by Jessica Schneider) was fairly sinister looking, but the child-mice ensemble contributed a darling element to the show. The drama was heightened during the sword-wielding fight scenes with the Nutcracker Soldier (Timmy Strickler), thanks to some well-timed Tchaikovsky score and a high-kicking Rat King. Some more notable standouts include the graceful maneuvers of the Snow Queen (Anastasia Bekker), the Snow King (Keith Lamelle Thomas), the Sugarplum Fairy (Nardia Boodoo) and the Porcelain Doll (Abby Mathios).
The “Nutcracker” is one of those holiday traditions that never ceases to bewilder and enchant audiences everywhere. I have seen many performances of the “Nutcracker,” and each one has its own signature. In much the same way the Nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince after the perilous battle, this production blossoms from the labors of its many dancers and its entire company.
It was delightful and great fun for kids and adults alike. Overall, I thought Ballet Chesapeake’s version was a Christmas gem that locals shouldn’t miss the next time it comes around.
Running Time: Approximately two hours.
For more information about Ballet Chesapeake, please visit their website by clicking here.