“How did he do that? Where did he go?” The little girl’s question during the opening scene of the Carolina Ballet’s classical Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, says everything about the magic of the season. There’s no one who does a better job than bringing the season alive in the Triangle area than Robert Weiss’ enchantingly choreographed story of Clara and her beloved nutcracker.
The little girls and boys in the audience mirror those who are on stage, for this production is the one that uses the entire company, as well as many aspiring dancers whose dedicated families celebrate the season with many hours of practice and rehearsals. Bringing the story alive onstage requires many talented hands, not the least of which are the gaily dancing children in the first act, the harlequins, soldiers, truffles, and gingerbread cookies throughout the rest of the story. Though the principal dancers are always wonderful, this ballet belongs to the children.
With music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky that is immediately recognizable and played by the orchestra conducted by Alfred E. Sturgis, mystical scenes by Jeff A.R. Jones, period and fantastical costume design by Judanna Lynn, and lighting by Ross Kolman, the ballet fills the stage at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.
Herr Drosselmeyer (Dameon Nagel) opens the ballet once again, creating the illusion (created by Rick Thomas) when his nephew disappears that astonishes the children in the audience. Ben Holton as Drosselmeyer’s nephew is slight and cute, a talented dancer and actor whose stage antics brought delighted laughs. Throughout the performance, he seems to mature and takes on his role with the natural ability of someone who’s spent his entire childhood acting and dancing.
At the party, Clara (Evey Britt) and her family gather around the Christmas tree for an evening’s festivities with dancing and gift-giving highlighted by the hilarious antics of the grandparents played by Ayla O’Day and Bilal Smith, and the arrival of the children’s favorite white-haired old man: Santa Claus.
The children in the Christmas tree scene include Fritz (Noah Peeters-DuFour), as well as his friends Chloe Castiller, Tova Feldman, Eliza Jennings, Beatrice Sanderson, Keira Segars, Isaac Bennear, Joseph Matthews, Logan Meyer, Spencer Pannell, and Zander Stimpson. The two little harlequins that dance at the end of the scene were played by Abigail Sevene and Kenney Shere.
When the families leave and Clara is left to her own imagination, the room is invaded by the Rat King (Raum Aron Gens-Ostrowski) and his mice (Naomi Chester, Bryce Cockman, Gabriel Cox, Sebastian Cox, Carolina Hicks, Sarah Hughes, Margaret Masters, Kara Ostrovsky, Kali Scott, and Cyril Stimpson), who fight against the soldiers who march across the stage in perfect unison (played by Sara Nicole Augustin, Ryan Carrington, Lisa Dione, Charlotte Hinson, Taylor Hoffman, Catherine Kendall, Hannah Lambert, Daphne Lin, Victoria Maldonado, Evemarie Mollinedo, Gabby Moyer, Stella Olson, Sade Pittman, Eva Robinson, Lilah Upton, and Emma Warenda).
After intermission, Clara travels to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy (played by the talented and lovely Jan Burkhard) dances among the cutest truffles (Violet Copas, Madison Craig, Liza Koonce, Lily Lawton, Victoria Maldonado, Margaret Masters, Ava Mayorga, Gabby Moyer, Addison Phillips, Eloise Scigliano, Abigail Stevens, and Riley Taylor).
As Clara sits and watches, the sweets dance for her, with the Carolina Ballet principals and soloists offering their iconic performances, but the children once again get the greatest audience response. Coffee’s attendants (Sara Nicole Augustin and Clare Lynn Aycock) do a great job assisting Jacqueline Schiller, and the scampering gingerbread cookies do their best to evince some laughter (Addison Hill, Eliza Jennings, Ava Mayorga, Eva Robinson, Keira Segars, Abigail Sevene, and Kennedy Shere).
Alyssa Pilger makes a lovely butterfly who flits among her flowers (Kathleen Black, McKenzie Van Oss, Saski de Muinck Keizer, Heather Duncan, Ayla O’Day, Rachel Robinson, Deidre Scanlon, and Anne Wright).
The story closes with one last dance by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Rammaru Shindo), while Clara and her Nutcracker finally come together in human form, then return to their sleep to celebrate Christmas morning.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 22nd Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Sarah Lindenfeld Hall for “Go Ask Mom”: https://www.wral.com/the-nutcracker-lights-up-stages-across-the-triangle/14220032/.
The Carolina Ballet presents THE NUTCRACKER at 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 16, 7 p.m. Dec. 18-20, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22, and 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 23 in the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601; and 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 29 and 2 p.m. Dec. 30 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: Raleigh: $49.15-$100.15. Durham: $73.38-$87.35.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or Raleigh: https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369155/836166 and Durham: https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/season-tickets/tickets/group-rates/.
2018-19 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/season-tickets/.
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium (directions: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions and parking: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking).
Durham Performing Arts Center: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center (directions: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions and parking: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking).
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18th, performance.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816 story): https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Nutcracker#ref1198397 (Encyclopædia Britannica) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nutcracker_and_the_Mouse_King (Wikipedia).
The Complete Story (English translation): http://www.springhole.net/writing/the_nutcracker_and_the_mouse_king/index.html (Springhole.net).
E.T.A. Hoffmann (German author, 1776-1822): https://www.britannica.com/biography/E-T-A-Hoffmann (Encyclopædia Britannica) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._T._A._Hoffmann (Wikipedia).
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian composer, 1840-93): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyotr_Ilyich_Tchaikovsky (Wikipedia).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.