Review: THE NUTCRACKER at KC Ballet

The seminal performance returns to the Kauffman

By: Dec. 04, 2021
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Review: THE NUTCRACKER at KC Ballet
Cameron Thomas and Elise Pickert
Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

And the show goes on.

After riding the tempest of the last few years, we seem to crave nothing so much as a return to "normal". Nebulous word, normal, but if nothing else, the ability to gather together and enjoy our traditions without being overshadowed by fear is a fundamental aspect. This year's Nutcracker is no exception, harkening to a simpler time while bowing to the realities of today.

The production is of course Devon Carney's, introduced a few seasons ago and firmly establishing itself as a mainstay. It is traditional with holiday shows to "pull out all the stops", and Carney's Nutcracker certainly does that. With seven separate casts putting in a total of 20 performances, it is fair to say that the production has not been trimmed down in the least.

And yet, here and there, there are signs. Vaccination policies meant that no performers under the age of 12 could be part of the production, as rehearsals had begun before that age group became eligible. This has resulted in a few changes here and there (the mouse battle and Mother Ginger in particular), but the affected portions have been reworked so a viewer may hardly know the difference.

The world of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker is a fantasy world, all gumdrop trees and dancing sweets. But somehow, it was the old-fashioned Christmas of the first act that struck this reviewer as the most unreal. It has always had a different sort of feel to it, the sort of Christmas we never experienced yet somehow seem to remember. It exists in a reality of its own, a sort of Russo-Dickensian Hollyjollyland. There are no masks here, no social distancing. No empty chairs, no arguments over politics. A toy broken in a fit of envy is the worst thing that happens, and that is soon enough put right. In a way, it's a window to another world, and leaves the viewer wistful and reflective. Do such Christmases exist, outside the aegis of selective memory? Did they ever?

The Nutcracker is in production now through the 24th at the Kauffman Center. Suitable for all ages, but proof of vaccine is required.


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