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BWW Review: The Nutcracker - Kansas City Ballet

BWW Review: The Nutcracker - Kansas City Ballet
KCB Company Dancers. Photographer: Ali Fleming

Kansas City Ballet's annual production of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" remains a first class interpretation of this classic holiday work. This "Nutcracker" with its lush and extravagant technical accoutrements has been performed to super reviews as far distant from Kansas City as the stage of Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. This year it returns home for a three week run at the Kauffman Center through Christmas Eve. As a theatrical enterprise, this "Nutcracker" is unlikely to be surpassed by any other production of this beloved work.

Originally produced at St. Petersburg Russia in 1892, the story is an adaption of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by Alexandre Dumas (the father). It tells the holiday story of the well-to-do Silberhaus family on Christmas Eve, and their children. Dr. Drosselmeier (Godfather to the children) is a magician and conjurer of the first order. He follows the slumbers and dreams of Clara, his favored god-daughter.

"This Nutcracker" is choreographed by KC Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney.

BWW Review: The Nutcracker - Kansas City Ballet
KCB Dancer Lamin Pereira.
Photographer: Brett Pruitt
& East Market Studios.

Carney's vision of the ballet takes a few liberties with the original Russian choreography and story but strives for context, lavishness of presentation, and overall spectacle. It succeeds on all counts.

Costumes are outstanding and delivered by Holly Hynes, formerly the Director of Costumes for the New York City Ballet. This production's incredible, massive, and opulent scenery and the detail of the stage properties spring from the imagination of internationally known designer and artist Alain Vaes. There is so much physical property that four workshops were needed to produce it all. Trad A. Burns is the lighting designer with over 600 productions to his credit. The Kansas City Ballet is accompanied by the excellent Kansas City Symphony.

Our story begins at Dr. Drosselmeier's toy and clockmaker shop. We soon learn that Drosselmeier is magical in addition to being a delightful artisan. Illusion is a theme that follows through the heart of this fine production of a favorite ballet.

I was struck from the opening with an image of an elegant silent film played out live on the Kauffman stage. Attention has been paid in this production to the acting and well as to the dance. This works to the production's credit.

The scene shifts to the Silberhaus home for a Christmas Eve lighting of the tree, an exchange of gifts and more demonstrations of Dr. Drosselmeir's prestidigitation skills for each of the present children. The children go off to their slumber. Daughter, Clara in particular, curls up in her bed and dreams.

BWW Review: The Nutcracker - Kansas City Ballet
KCB Ballet Student Brooklyn Brizendine.
Photographer: Brett Pruitt
& East Market Studios.

The remainder of the ballet invites us into Clara's dream. She dreams that her nutcracker toy soldier has comes to life as a real boy. He saves Clara from a very villainous rat creature.

See here dancing mice, rats, a platoon of toy soldiers, sheep, a prince, a princess, sugar plum fairies, a troop of Russian peasants, visitors from the Arabian Nights, and sojourners from the mystical Far East. Dr. Drosselmeir, the protector, is never far away. Music, some of the costumes, and general themes will be familiar to the ear, but this particular compilation of dance has been created especially for this production.

More than 30 professional artists and dozens of young students (who are just learning ballet) participate in this extravagant rendering. The professional dancers are all very credible. The precision, strength, and athleticism required to bring "The Nutcracker" to life is obvious and impressive. The youngest participants look like they are having a ball. So do the smiling parents and grandparents out in the auditorium.

BWW Review: The Nutcracker - Kansas City Ballet
KCB Dancers Amaya Rodriguez
and Liang Fu. Photographer:
Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

You will notice that individual dancers have not been recognized in this appreciation. The cast rotates performance to performance. Not all dancers perform at all performances. Audience members who are looking for special dancers should be careful to know which performances will feature their personal favorite dancers. Tickets for Kansas City Ballet's "The Nutcracker" are available online or by telephone at (877) 582-9297.

This production is a continuing gift to dance lovers and those who value the tradition of the season.

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From This Author Alan Portner