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BWW Review: THE NUTCRACKER Brings Traditional Holiday Cheer at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater

BWW Review: THE NUTCRACKER Brings Traditional Holiday Cheer at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater
L-R Lia Cirio and Paul Craig as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in Syracuse City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. Photo by Royce Burgess.

The Syracuse City Ballet has once again brought The Nutcracker ballet to the Crouse Hinds Theater. Many families look forward to carrying on the tradition of seeing The Nutcracker every Holiday season and this year's production did not disappoint under the fabulous direction of Kathleen Rathbun.

Rathbun's continues to incorporate new additions and different professional principals each year, which makes it much more enticing to those that have seen the ballet performed countless times. The 2017 production is no exception. There are new principal dancers from the Boston Ballet, a very bright and brand new growing Christmas tree, and new choreography featuring resident Cuban dancers.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E. T. A. Hoffman. The Syracuse City Ballet production features music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreography by Director Kathleen Rathbun.

The familiar story begins on Christmas Eve in the Stahlbaum home, at an annual Christmas party. The home is filled with family and friends. Godfather Drosselmeyer (Mike Price) arrives and the party becomes even more festive. The toy maker brings a ballerina doll (Madison Riccardi) and a Soldier doll (Jose Carlos Perez) to life to perform dances for the family and friends. After the performances, Clara (the lovely and expressive Sophia Greene) and Fritz (the entertaining Andres Valladares) receive their gifts. Clara receives a lovely Ballerina Nutcracker and Fritz receives a Soldier Nutcracker. Clara becomes instantly attached to the Nutcrackers and sneaks back downstairs to the Christmas tree. She curls up and falls asleep with the beloved toys and that is when her imagination and dreams take flight. Her dreams include a dramatic fight between the Nutcracker (Alejandro Cobas) and the Rat King (Jose Carlos Perez), the transformation of The Nutcracker, a journey to the Land of Snow, and magical entertainment in the Land of Sweets.

The artistic elements of the show are highly detailed and breathtaking. Kristen Palazzoli has designed beautiful flowing costumes with rich passionate jewel tones. The costumes make the choreography even more breathtaking to watch. This is especially true as the flowers (Jaeden Benedict, Jordan Fascia, Delaney Glassford, Emma Holynski, Makayla Kanerviko, Erin Kerwin, Madison Riccardi, and Hannah Walsh) and little flowers (Madison Bautista, Mikayla Brzostowski, Riley Butkowski, Lauren Formica, Elizabeth Fox, Addison Procopio, Kemery Sanborn, and Michaela Vargason) dance on stage wearing the perfectly coordinated rich purple.

Paul Capotosto and Simone Scalici's props are definite highlights especially the newly designed and well lit (lighting designer Robert Dwyer) Christmas tree. Unfortunately, there is no live orchestra; however, Rachael Cierniakoski's music and sound editing is sufficient for the production.

The Syracuse City Ballet has once again cast some skilled dancers to play the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier to dance the Grand Pas De Deux. Lia Cirio, a breathtaking dancer from the Boston Ballet, performs the Sugar Plum Fairy with such grace, poise, and elegance. Her emotion-filled dancing is spectacular and she gives a truly enjoyable and passionate performance. As the Cavalier, the highly skilled Paul Craig is strong and confident. He effortlessly lifts Cirio and performs his solo moments wonderfully. These principal dancers' work is a definite highlight and it was wonderful to see such chemistry and passion in the dance.

BWW Review: THE NUTCRACKER Brings Traditional Holiday Cheer at the Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater
L-R Carolina Tavarez and Alejandro Cobas as the Snow Queen and Snow King in Syracuse Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. Photo by Royce Burgess.

Alejandro Cobas, Syracuse City Ballet's first Resident dancer, is confident, poised, and appropriately dramatic as The Nutcracker and Snow King. He entertained as the Russian dancer and really had the crowd going. His performance as the Arabian in the Character dances along with the female Arabian dancers (Jaeden Benedict, Jordan Fascia, Emma Holynski, Madison Riccardi, and Hannah Walsh) is also memorable.

Jose Carlos Perez, also a resident dancer, performs the roles of the Rat King, Nutcracker Soldier Doll, and the Spanish Character dancer. I really enjoyed his death scene as the Rat King. It was dramatically entertaining, especially as the mouse trap comes down on him. He also got the party started as the Nutcracker Soldier doll in Clara and Fritz's home. Alongside the lovely and talented Makayla Kanerviko, he shows off his obvious technique and skill in the Spanish dance.

Carolina Tavarez is magnificent as the Snow Queen and the Dew Drop Fairy. Her confidence and elegance steal the spotlight every moment she is onstage.

Other highlights include the comedic Josh Scheirer as Mother Ginger gliding in a large set piece, and the gingerbread cookies (Emma-Marie Buda, Julia Conmy, Enya Dafoe, Lucy DeMore, Rose Fennessy, Justin Gabryszak, Emma Hurne, Katie Klaczko, Lillyanna Kupiec, Jacelyn Pena, Leah Stark, and Emily Wrobleski) scampering about the stage. The entire cast portrays mice, snowflakes, angels, reindeer (Gisele Fumarola and Alexa Shenandoah), Chinese dancers, and pages and they all give passionate and beautiful performances.

The Syracuse City Ballet production of The Nutcracker is a definite must-see for families to attend during the Holiday season in Syracuse. To see young children's faces light up as they see the familiar characters, breathtaking costumes, and highly skilled professional dancers is a memory that will last a lifetime.

Running time: Approximately two hours with one twenty-eight minute intermission.

The 2017 Syracuse City Ballet production of The Nutcracker played on December 2 and December 3, 2017 at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater. For tickets and information on The Syracuse City Ballet click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley