Photo Flash: Loyce Houlton's NUTCRACKER FANTASY
Even after 44 consecutive years of Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantasy delighting Minnesota audiences, Minnesota Dance Theatre (MDT) has a few surprise moves to make in the anticipated holiday production for its 45th anniversary. Most Twin Cities balletomanes have come to know and love Loyce Houlton's beautifully crafted choreographic storytelling, set to Tchaikovsky's music. We all love our holiday traditions. Going to see this favorite ballet has become one such tradition, and to some extent, the familiarity of the characters, lush costumes and sets, and key moments that bring down the house, lend a warmth and comfort to Minnesota hearts as they witness something that remains beautiful even after nearly half a century. Yet, what keep the audiences coming are the subtle and exciting year-to-year changes. Re-interpretations of the dynamic characters by an ever-evolving cast bring renewed vigor to this vintage performance. This year promises an exceptionally fresh revival.
MDT company member Kevin Iverson will make his Nutcracker debut as the eccentrically charismatic Drosselmayer, godfather to the young and dreamy Marie, and sly purveyor of this tale's enchantment. Iverson, a 2008 graduate of St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts high school, will be the youngest Drosselmayer in production history. Mr. Iverson's demonstrated proficiency and cunning charm onstage marks him as a particularly exciting pick for this year's prime storytelling role, whose veterans include such local dance luminaries as James Sewell of James Sewell Ballet and Matthew Janczewski of Arena Dances, and Christopher Martin, formerly of American Ballet Theatre (ABT).
This year's production is one to watch as the choreography comes alive through a delightful cast composed of MDT resident company dancers, local artists, guest artists of ABT, and students of the Minnesota Dance Theatre's Dance Institute (MDT/DI). Melanie Verna and Sam Feipel take on the virtuoso roles of the Sugarplum fairy and her cavalier, joined in the roles for alternating performances by ABT dancers Yuriko Kajiya and JarEd Matthews. Justin Leaf returns as the dashing Nutcracker prince, and Matt Jenson will bring outlandish charm back to the role of Madame Bonbonniere. Lise Houlton directs the production, which holds the distinction of being the longest running arts event in Minnesota history and has been named the "Best Nutcracker" by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine (2008 Best of the Twin Cities).
Nutcracker Fantasy tickets are available now. Ticket prices range from $24.00-$48.00 for adults and $12.00-$24.00 for children 17 and under; seniors receive $5 off and student tickets are $20.00-$39.00. Tickets are available now at the State Theatre box office, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-982-2787.
Minnesota Dance Theatre brings this holiday classic to life December 18-20 at The State Theatre:
Friday, December 18th, 7pm
Saturday, December 19th, 2pm & 7pm
Sunday, December 20th, 2pm & 7pm
Photo credit: Erik Saulitis and Tim Boatman