Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker premiered on Friday, December 18 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. The snow that lined the streets of Raleigh that evening may have added to the audience’s excitement, but one can be certain that Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker is pure Christmas joy all on its own.
The show, under the artistic direction of Robert Weiss, opened to the audience’s delighted gasps as it took in the intricately designed set. Every detail – from the authentic looking Christmas tree on stage to Clara’s frilly dress – was beautiful and eye-catching.
Act I- Christmas Eve moved at a fast pace and contained a playful mix of comedy and elaborate dancing. The “party boys” earned audience giggles by playing a carefully choreographed game of leapfrog on stage and harassing the prim and proper “party girls,” and Drosselmeyer’s wife pantomimed a well-received joke about not drinking and driving. When the audience wasn’t giggling, it was busy marveling at the especially impressive dance of the Toy Soldier Doll. His great leaps into the air combined with lively music from the North Carolina symphony garnered a well-deserved round of sporadic applause. Even the youngest audience members remained rapt throughout the entire first act, especially when the aforementioned tree grew a stunning 20 feet into the air. The most impressive part of Act I, however, was definitely the children on stage. They were all perfect performers – never missing a step, and their genuine enthusiasm could be felt from the front row all the way up to the balcony seating.
Act II- The Land of Sweets was less comedic, but the dancing in this act proved to be awe-inspiring. While the Sugar Plum Fairy’s original and obviously perfected dance scenes were impressive, the Candy Canes, the Gingerbread Cookies, and the Tea Sweet really stole the show. The Candy Canes, played by a group of male dancers, wowed the audience with sky-sweeping leaps, twirls, and even flips, while the Tea Sweet’s genie-inspired costume and quirky, original dancing caused a noticeable hush to fall over the auditorium. The Gingerbread Cookies, played by a group of charmingly-costumed children who emerged spectacularly from under the skirt of a very tall “baker” on hidden stilts, caused laughter to reverberate throughout the room. The final and crowning moment featured Clara rising high into the air, sailing offstage, and waving to an audience so delighted that it actually waved back.
The flawless music of the North Carolina Symphony combined with stunning dancing, elaborate costumes, and breathtaking scenery made for a show so perfect that it would take a true Scrooge to find anything to criticize here. Everything – from the Mouse who opened a lighted storybook and invited the audience into the world of The Nutcracker to the Gingerbread Cookies’ adorable backwards bows – about Carolina Ballet’s The Nutcracker is simply magic.
The Nutcracker at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium of the Progress Energy Center on Friday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. Other performances are Saturday, December 19 at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 20 at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; Tuesday, December 22 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, December 23 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, December 26 at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m; and Sunday, December 27 at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Tickets may be obtained by calling(919) 719-0900 or ticketmaster at 800 982 2787, and patrons are urged to order tickets in advance as they are going quickly.