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

Melissa Gelfin as Sugar Plum Fairy and James Gilmer asPrince/Cavalier. Photo by Royce Burgess.

The Syracuse City Ballet - the only professional ballet company serving Central New York -presented the classic holiday ballet, The Nutcracker this past weekend. The Syracuse City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker has become an annual holiday tradition for many in the Syracuse area.

Directed and choreographed by the talented and devoted Kathleen Rathbun, the company's Artistic Director, the production provides a perfect opportunity to expose elementary school age children to the world of ballet. It also provides a wonderful opportunity for local professional, pre-professional, and student dancers to share the stage with national and international guest artists.

The ballet, of course, features the beautiful and recognizable music by Ilyich Tchaikovsky (pre-recorded for this production). It is based on the story The Nutcracker and the King of Mice written by E.T.A. Hoffman, which brings us into the imagination of a young German girl who dreams about a Nutcracker Prince fighting in a battle against a Mouse King.

The Nutcracker has all of those familiar characters that make it entertaining to watch time and time again. Clara (Elizabeth Reagan) dreams of The Nutcracker Prince (James Gilmer) after her family's Christmas Eve party comes to a close. The magical story comes to life with all of the mice, soldiers, Drosselmeyer (Mike Price), the Nutcracker Prince, Sugar Plum Fairy (Melissa Gelfin), and more in the Land of Sweets.

This production starred guest artist Melissa Gelfin as the Sugar Plum Fairy. A ballet dancer in her third season with the Cincinnati Ballet, Gelfin's grace and beauty made her a pleasure to watch. She passionately danced the Grand Pas de Dux along with James Gilmer,a soloist ballet dancer for the Cincinnati Ballet. His strength, passion, and power really shined through as the Nutcracker Prince.

Other talented dancers also made an impression. Claire Rathbun, an alumni of The Syracuse City Ballet, was breathtaking as the Snow Queen and The Dew Drop Fairy, especially when she gracefully swept across the stage. Zachary Downer stole the show as the Nutcracker Soldier Doll, Russian lead, and Spanish lead. Downer's dancing has such power and strength as evidenced by how effortlessly he jumps into the air. As Clara, young student dancer Elizabeth Reagan made the most of her time in the spotlight as did Jacob Smith as Fritz. Student dancer Emma Holynski was also very memorable as the Rat King and Cassandra Dashley was superb as the Marzipan lead.

The costumes designed and coordinated by Kristin Palazzoli were exquisitely detailed. They added a lot of visual interest as each dancer leaped and twirled across the stage. The lighting by Robert Dwyer added to the magic of the show.

The first production of The Nutcracker took place in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia. The Nutcracker came to America in 1940 and has been a holiday tradition across the country ever since. Like many of those productions that came before it, the Syracuse City Ballet's production allows the classic tale comes to life and keeps the tradition alive.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with one twenty minute intermission.

The Nutcracker ran from December 3, 2016 and December 4, 2016 at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater in Syracuse, New York. For tickets and information about the Syracuse City Ballet click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley

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