BWW Reviews: Cincinnati Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER is a Sweet Treat
The Nutcracker is a staple during the holiday season for every ballet company however during fiscally difficult years many companies rely on this Christmas classic to stay afloat. Cincinnati's Frisch's Presents The Nutcracker is always guaranteed to sell out and this year was no exception. I have seen the Nutcracker performed in many cities, each with its own choreography, set and costumes, but I have never seen one where major characters have been changed. However Cincinnati did just that and it was nothing if not entertaining. The iconic Mother Ginger was changed to a Chicken sitting on her roost; and after laying an egg she produced eight dancing chicks, 2 of which were fantastic tumblers. The Artistic Director Victoria Morgan and her love affair with her pet poodle inspired the other huge change. Clara had her own pet poodle by her side throughout the entire ballet and a poodle scene, named the Mirlipoos, replaced the traditional Shepherds. Although I found this new scene comical I felt that unlike the chicken the poodles didn't fit in very well to the Sugar Plum Fairy's world. The poodle costume was fantastic but the 80's inspired headbands and neon pink and green colors of their furs were out of place. The other costume that I severely disliked was the doll's costume during the Christmas Party. She wore what looked like a Raggedy Ann inspired red yarn wig, and an orange and black Halloween inspired dress.
The rest of the ballet I absolutely loved. The dancers did not disappoint as they achieved their regular high caliber of perfection. Even Clara, performed by Alyssa Manguiat, executed her moves with beautiful extension, and the Nutcracker Prince, played by Taylor Carrasco, was the best dancer to play the role that I have ever seen. Cervilio Miguel Amador, whose lines were as gorgeous as ever, played the Cotton Candy Cavalier. He excelled while partnering the Sugar Plum Fairy by making her lifts seem effortless. Janessa Touchet was stunning in this role impressing the audience with her continuous turns, and ease of balance. Sarah Hairston danced with just as much beauty during her interpretation of the Snow Queen. However she would not have been as lovely without her excellent partner Romel Frometa who played the Snow King. The Snowflakes, who also played the flowers, threw fake snow almost every 2 seconds and I was mesmerized by their ability to maintain their balance while dancing beautifully. The 2 costumes these women wore were my favorite. Other impressive skills were the Chinese Trainer's ability to incorporate a large quarterstaff into his moves, and Herr Drosselmeyer's majestic flying across the stage. Christopher Lingner and Zack Grubbs played these roles respectively.
Brand new and completely unique to Cincinnati was the decision to have the ballet open in the Kitchen. I found the scene to be inventive and whimsical and the focus on the food made the intrusion of the mice more practical during Clara's dream. I loved that the big blue cake made during the opening scene and used during the party served as the scenic backdrop in the Sugar Plum Fairy's kingdom. This larger than life cake also served as an entrance for the different acts which left the audience with plenty of mystery as they wondered how the dancers were appearing and disappearing on and off the stage. Also unique this year was the inclusion of Frisch's Big Boy during the battle scene, which was of course included for the ballet's opening night performance as this year marked Frisch's 40th year of sponsorship for the Nutcracker. This was my first year seeing Cincinnati's version of this Christmas classic and I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next year.