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Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center

Be sure to bring your whole family to the show as there is something in it for everyone; you do not want to miss this truly magical event of the season!

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet First Soloist Tyler Donatelli as Clara
with Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

You walk into the theatre, full of art, splendor, and shades of red and gold. Four dancers, dressed as various toys, are onstage and greet you with funny expressions, energetic movement, and the making of balloon animals. You hear kids giggle with each other as they hug the plush friends that they brought as companions to the show. You read through the picturesque program and read THE NUTCRACKER story in a poem, building your excitement to see the tale come to life. As you watch the first act, you smell licorice and confectionaries, and you sigh, laugh, and gasp with the other audience members as the story unfolds before you.

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet Principal Jessica Collado as the Snow Queen
with Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

You are livened by the party scene, and later shocked and startled as you watch rats fumble down the aisles. You see spectacle after spectacle as set pieces fly in and out, creating the beautiful home of Clara's family, a snowy wonderland, and a world of sweets. Projections make the clock come alive, the tree grow to an unbelievable size, and the stars sparkle in the sky. Snow falls from above throughout the Snow Queen's scene, and gold tinsel is scattered around as everyone celebrates the finale of the classic story. After the show, you watch as little girls and boys rush around the lobby, pick up and play with the various toys and knick-knacks for sale, and practice their own ballerina poses and pointed toes. You walk out of the theatre still in awe of what you saw, you feel light on your feet, and the classic melodies are still spiraling around your head. All-in-all, you have a reinvigorated Christmas spirit warming your heart. This is the experience of Houston Ballet's 2022 THE NUTCRACKER.


Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet First Soloist Tyler Donatelli as Clara
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

With more than 70,000 patrons seeing it every year, Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER is one of the most celebrated traditions of the holidays, and rightfully so! Being performed for over 35 years, the production is full of incredible orchestrations, wonderful imagery, and a magical story to boot. Based upon the classic tale, THE NUTCRACKER tells the story of a girl named Clara who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and goes on an adventure with characters from another world. As stated on the Houston Ballet website, "From snowflakes to sword fights to the Christmas tree that reaches the sky, THE NUTCRACKER truly is the perfect holiday experience for the whole family. Be there as Clara and Drosselmeyer make their journey to the Kingdom of Sweets and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince in the land where the real magic happens."

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet Corps de Ballet dancer Yu Wakizuka
with Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

Many aspects of this particular production really drew my eye. Of course, as can be expected from the Houston Ballet, the dancers were abundantly talented. I could not keep my eyes off of them as they kicked, jumped, and twirled, making every move look effortless (even though I knew that they were far from easy). I was especially drawn by the flexibility and coordination of the female Arabian (Karina Gonzàlez), enthralled by the athletic ability of the Russian (Ryo Kato), and

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet Principals Beckanne Sisk as the Sugar Plum Fairy
and Chase O'Connell as the Nutcracker Prince
with Artists of Houston Ballet
and Students of the Houston Ballet Academy
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

captivated by the technical ability and grace of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Allison Miller). I was also impressed by the professional posture of the young performers; they were so fun to watch with their big facial expressions and their adorable physicality, and some of them could not have been more than 5 years old. When the whole cast was onstage at the end, it was astonishing to see the large number of dancers involved in the production. 61 professional dancers are a part of this show, and over 300 young dancers, ages 7-18, fill out the rest of the cast!

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Students of the Houston Ballet Academy
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

One of my favorite parts of the production was the costumes. When the family's dog entered, all of the audience could not help but laugh at the fluffy costume and the performer's spastic movements. Everyone was awed at the cuteness of the younger performers dressed as dolls, teddy bears, rats, sheep, angels, and more. In the second act, the masks of the various ambassadors from different countries were incredibly detailed and stunning to look at, and I am still astounded by the dancers who performed in them because I am not even sure how they saw out of them! Last, but of course not least, were the stunning tutus and dresses of the various female performers. The Snow Queen stunned the audience with her sparkling, white gown and large, impressive snow headpiece. The Sugar Plum Fairy's iconic pink dress was lovely as ever. The Flurries dazzled everyone in their costumes of all-white, and the Lead Flowers warmed the stage as they brought in the tones of spring. With each new entrance, I could not get enough of the visual beauty of each and every costume.

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet First Soloist Tyler Donatelli as Clara
and Apprentice Eric Best as Fritz
with Students of the Houston Ballet Academy
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

I was also astounded by the set designs, which filled the whole stage with wonder and joy. My favorite set was the party scene, which had grand decorations, ornate furniture wheeling on and off the stage, and loads of people buzzing with liveliness. The windows opened and closed, revealing scenery and snow falling outside, and there was a staircase that led to a balcony, allowing us to have a glimpse of the scenes on the first and second floors at the same time. The two-story house is 28 feet tall, weighs 14,000 pounds, and fits on the 17,000 square feet stage! I especially enjoyed the transition from Clara's house to the base of the Christmas tree. As the scene change occurred, projections of toys and Christmas imagery bounced on the house set as it was flown off the stage. Due to an inventive lighting design, the Christmas tree grew and all of a sudden, we were amongst the presents underneath the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree grows to reach 39 feet and has a 25-foot spiral staircase within it! I was simply amazed by how smooth the change was.

Review: Houston Ballet's THE NUTCRACKER Dazzles Audiences with Spectacle and Holiday Cheer at the Wortham Theater Center
Houston Ballet Demi Soloist Luzemberg Santana as the Nutcracker
with Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's THE NUTCRACKER.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2022).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

I have seen many productions of THE NUTCRACKER due to my background of and love for dance, and I have to say that the Houston Ballet's production of THE NUTCRACKER is the best version that I have ever seen. Be sure to bring your whole family to the show as there is something in it for everyone; you do not want to miss this truly magical event of the season!

THE NUTCRACKER is running NOW through December 27th, and you can see it at the Wortham Theater in downtown Houston. Visit houstonballet.org for tickets and more information; tickets start at just $30.



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