With dreams of Santa, sugar plums, and fairies dancing in their heads, children of all ages took their seats on Saturday, Dec. 7th, in the Beasley Curtis Auditorium in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall to watch the Carolina Performing Arts present the Carolina Ballet’s magical production of The Nutcracker. The Ballet’s annual tour of the Triangle region is a gift that plays in children’s heads all year long, for who can forget the dancing cupcakes and sugar plum fairy? With Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, played by a live orchestra, the fantasy becomes a holiday spectacle inspired by Robert Weiss’ imagination and managed by Zalman Raffael’s artistic leadership.
From the moment Herr Drosselmeyer (played by Dameon Nagel) appears on stage to conduct a bit of magic with his nephew,the Nutcracker (played by Samuel Chubb), all eyes are on the dancers. The tricks delight the audience and set the tone for even greater bits of fantasy to come.
After being introduced to the performance’s star, the narrative turns to a magnificent Christmas party run by the Stahlbaums (played by Kiefer Curtis and Lauren Wolfram); but the children are the stars of the production, with a wonderful Clara, played by Marlo Blue Gordon, who’s lovely throughout the performance.
The Stahlbaums have invited their guests to join them for a festive evening, with dancing and presents and a tree that is topped by a magical angel played by Zoe D’Astolfo, who truly appears angelic. But the evening isn’t complete without a visit from Herr Drosselmeyer and his nephew, who bring the most special guest of the evening: Santa Claus.
When the party is over and Clara has rescued the Nutcracker from her brother, Fritz (played by Spencer Parnell), who cruelly broke it in half, the magic amplifies. The tree grows into the sky and Clara’s dreams come to life.
She watches a battle between the Rat King (played by Christian Gutierrez), the Mice, the Calico Cat (played by Sara Roe), Bunnies (played by Clara Lynn and Abby Stevens) and Soldiers. The children who play the group roles (Mice and Soldiers) are all adorable and enthusiastic, filling the stage with their play-fighting and bringing Clara’s Nutcracker to a heroic height.
The Northwind (played with great athleticism by Jayson Pescasio) brings Clara to the Land of Snow, where the Snowflakes (led by Courtney Schenberger, with Taylor Ayotte and Lauren Wolfram) bring sparkly tutus and the most romantic music of the performance. Set off by perfect warm lighting, the dance of the Snowflakes is what inspires little ballet dancers to lace up their own shoes.
The most delicate performance of the evening is the one that Ashley Hathaway delivers as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She introduces Clara and her Nutcracker Prince to all the inhabitants of the Land of Sweets, including Hot Chocolate (Sara Roe, Lauren Wolfram, Luke Potgieter, and Miles Sollars-White; Coffee (Lily Wills); Tea (Nicholas Fokine and Bilal Smith); Candy Canes (Sam Ainley, Kiefer Curtis and Christian Gutierrez); Ribbon Candy (Amanda Gerhardt, Taylor Ayotte, and Kathleen Black); Mother Ginger (Davy Nethercutt) and her Gingerbread Cookies (a delightful troupe of young rollers, tumblers and dancers); and — last but most certainly not least — the elegant Butterfly, played with artistic prowess by Alyssa Pilger. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Marcelo Martinez) wrap up the performances and bring Clara and her Prince back to reality.
All holidays should be celebrated with some glitz and a certain amount of legendary storytelling, great music and phenomenal dancing. As usual, the Carolina Ballet delivers to Chapel Hill (Dec. 7th and 8th) and will be doing so again in Durham (Dec. 14th and 15th) and Raleigh (Dec. 18-23 and 27-29) before the Christmas season is over.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 4th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Melissa Howsam: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article237986649.html; and Nov. 27th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/nutcracker-carolina-ballet-december-2019/.
The Carolina Ballet presents THE NUTCRACKER: 18th Anniversary Edition at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 in Memorial Hall, 114 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 2 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham, NC 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District; and 7 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 22, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 23, 7 p.m. Dec. 27, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 28, and 2 p.m. Dec. 29 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, NC 27601.
Chapel Hill Show: $47 and up, plus fees.
Durham Show: $21.78-$116 and up, plus fees.
Raleigh Show: $42.15-$127.15, plus fees.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Chapel Hill Show: 919-843-3333 or https://tickets.carolinaperformingarts.org/single/SYOS.aspx?p=12513.
Durham Show: 919-680-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/836166.
Raleigh Show: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369155/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/2019-2020-season/the-nutcracker/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/644241725750135/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet/videos/570839267009422/.
Chapel Hill Show: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/ros_perf_series/the-nutcracker/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/843934302636726/.
Durham Show: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-nutcracker and https://www.facebook.com/events/2423044047738764/.
Raleigh Show: https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/events/nutcracker-carolina-ballet-0 and https://www.facebook.com/events/2441056735937790/.
CAROLINA BALLET‘S 2019-20 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/season.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Memorial Hall: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/ros_venue/memorial-hall/ (maps/directions: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/visit/getting-here/ and parking: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/visit/parking/).
Durham Performing Arts Center: http://www.dpacnc.com/ (directions: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions and parking: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking).
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium: https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venues (directions/parking: https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/getting-duke-energy-center).
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816 story): https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Nutcracker-and-the-Mouse-King (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).
The Nutcracker (1892 two-act ballet): https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Balanchine (Encyclopædia Britannica) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nutcracker (Wikipedia).
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian composer, 1840-93): https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pyotr-Ilyich-Tchaikovsky (Encyclopædia Britannica) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyotr_Ilyich_Tchaikovsky (Wikipedia).
Zalman Raffael (Carolina Ballet‘s artistic director): http://zalmanraffael.com/ (official website) and https://www.carolinaballet.com/zalman-raffael/ (Carolina Ballet bio).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet‘s founding artistic director): https://www.carolinaballet.com/robert-weiss/ (Carolina Ballet bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/robert-weiss-87951 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_(choreographer) (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/.