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BWW Review: The Houston Ballet Returns to the Wortham with Stanton Welch's Sumptuous NUTCRACKER

BWW Review: The Houston Ballet Returns to the Wortham with Stanton Welch's Sumptuous NUTCRACKER
Houston Ballet Principal Melody Mennite
and Artists of the Houston Ballet.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar

The Houston Ballet, after a year of touring various Houston venues while awaiting the refurbishment of the flood-damaged Wortham Theatre Center, makes a triumphant return in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.

pulling out all the proverbial stops, Mr. Welch has brought his new production back to dazzle the eye and quicken the heart. Using some 250 costumes, the production is a swirl with color and sparkle, shown to particular advantage in the Waltz of the Flowers. The visual is thrilling.

Designer Tim Goodchild has provided the setting, with dancers inhabiting life-sized sets that include a two-story Palladian mansion, as well as fanciful backdrops for Clara's travels.

CLARA danced on opening night by Melody Mennite is the pampered darling of a large and devoted family. At a lavish holiday party given by her parents, she is gifted with a toy nutcracker by her uncle Drosselmeyer (Oliver Halkowich) and promptly falls in love with it. Drosselmeyer then takes her on a magical trip to a strange place of ice and snow, where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy (Karina Gonzalez), and the eponymous Nutcracker Prince (Harper Watters).

Clara is entertained magnificently by troupes of exotic dancers from foreign lands, each presenting dances from their homelands.

After a frenetic skirmish between the Rat King and his troops, routed by a nutcracker army, Clara is transported back to her warm bed and her dreams of Sugarplums.

Special mention should be given to the students of The Ballet Academy. They always amaze me with their poise and aplomb, dancing to intricate choreography with never a missed step or dropped character. They are a joy to watch, and I may have seen one or two future stars in their ranks.

I know that many of you consider THE NUTCRACKER to be an old warhorse and a cash cow - to mix my metaphors - but I would respectfully disagree. As long as artists of the caliber of Welch and his company of superb dancers, there will always be some new approach to delight; some new sight to see.

So take your best holiday spirit and see this one.

THE NUTCRACKER runs at The Wortham Theatre Center through December 29.

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From This Author Gary Laird