BWW Review: The Syracuse City Ballet Presents THE NUTCRACKER at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater

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BWW Review: The Syracuse City Ballet Presents THE NUTCRACKER at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater
Claire Rathbun and Jean-Michel Panchuk in the Syracuse City Ballet production of The Nutcracker.
Photo by Royce Burgess.

The festive treat of The Nutcracker presented by The Syracuse City Ballet has once again entertained numerous audiences this past weekend to kick off the 2019 Holiday season. Under the devoted direction of the Syracuse City Ballet founding Artistic Director Kathleen Rathbun, the show once again brought memories that will last a lifetime. Featuring the choreography by Kathleen Rathbun, staging and additional choreography by Aldo K. Santiago, along with familiar music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaiovsky the Syracuse City Ballet's production features local professional, pre-professional, and student dancers. In certain performances there are different dancers taking on the roles. The heart, beauty, and energy of this production is always a highlight for this time of year and I was treated to their final 3 PM performance on Sunday, December 1st.

The story centers on a Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house where many guests are enjoying a party and the young children receive special gifts from godfather Drosselmayer. The jolly toy maker, once again performed by Mike Price, a retired and award-winning veteran Syracuse radio and television newscaster, brings a special treat to the guests by conjuring two life size dolls each performing their own dance. Erin Kerwin once again takes on the role of the ballerina doll and again delivers an animated, intricate, and dazzling performance. Raydel Caceres takes on the role of the Soldier doll and the role always is a delight to see especially with such energetic choreography. Caceres certainly entertained.

During the party Clara, featuring Dolcinea Holcomb, receives a lovely Ballerina Nutcracker and her brother Fritz, featuring Richard Huxtable, receives a Soldier Nutcracker. That night after the party is over something magical happens in the Stahlbaum home, their Christmas tree grows right before Clara and Fritz's eyes.

Then the clock strikes and the villainous Mouse King makes an appearance. Raydel Caceres brings the fierce villain to life with his effortless leaps as the little mice scurry about the stage. The Nutcracker comes to life and fights alongside his army of toy soldiers. Unfortunately he is injured during the battle against the Mouse King. Luckily, good old Drosselmeyer is once again there for Clara and Fritz and transforms the beloved Nutcracker into the Prince (Jean-Michel Panchuk).

Then the majestic beauty of the ballet really takes center stage as The Prince, Clara, and Fritz go on a journey to the Land of Snow. Kinsey Novak took on the role of the Snow Queen and Isaac Lee is the Snow King. Novak's performance was pure magic as she danced light as air across the stage. Their dance appears as if they are floating. It was an enchanting performance. With student dancers taking on roles as dancing snowflakes in flowing costumes, the scene is always breathtaking.

Act II then opens in the Land of Sweets and the children and Prince are greeted by the Dew Drop Fairy, where Kinsey Novak also danced the role. The technique, beauty, and grace Novak showed on stage was stunning.

The children are then treated to a celebration of dances. The Chinese Tea dance features leads Manoela Leopoldino and Felipe Panama taking on the energetic dance. Josh Scheirer is once again comedic in the role of Mother Ginger as he charms the audience with his over-the-top antics as he plays off the student dancers performing as the Gingerbread cookies. Mother Ginger is always a favorite moment of this production. The Marzipan dance then featured Caroline Sheridan. The Arabian Coffee dance featuring Jo-anne Burke and Isaac Lee in the seductive dance number. The Spanish Chocolate dance featured Manoela Leopoldino and Felipe Panama showing off their fiery dance moves. Raydel Caceres brought that famous Russian dance to life with his intoxicating energy, electrifying charm, and spot on comedic timing. The celebration then ends with the always beautiful The Waltz of the Flowers featuring numerous dancers wearing many shades of purple.

Dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is the always stunning Claire Rathbun. Her grace, stage presence, and technique are magic. Rathbun has performed numerous roles for the Syracuse City Ballet, made her Broadway debut in Cats as Victoria, and was in the Anastasia national tour. She is a true professional on stage. She performed a breathtaking performance of the famous Grand Pas de Deux of The Nutcracker along with Jean-Michel Panchuk.

Kathleen Rathbun has once again brought a delightful production of Syracuse City Ballet's The Nutcracker to The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater. The Holiday season is not complete unless you see this production. In my opinion it is a must-see yearly Holiday treat.

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

The Syracuse City Ballet's 2019 production of The Nutcracker had performances on November 30, 2019 and December 1, 2019 at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse, New York. For tickets and information on the Syracuse City Ballet click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley