BWW Review: Enchanted NUTCRACKER at MKE Ballet Elevates Holiday Hope and New Dancers

Photo Credit: Mark Frohna

While the snow fell outside the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, snow feel on stage in The Milwaukee Ballet's enchanting The Nutcracker. The irresistible holiday tradition continues under Artistic Director Michael Pink dazzling costumes, set designs, and magical lighting by David Grill. The MKE Ballet orchestra accompanies the production conducted by Pasquale Laurino, where exquisite harps and marimbas punctuate Pyotr Ilyiich Tchaikovsky's iconic score, along with the voices of the Milwaukee Children's Choir. Audiences thrill to one entire evening admiring dance and music in the name of this classical art.

From the first moments, this Nutcracker engages the audience--the evening Tannebaum Christmas party showcases the ensembles dancing along with the entrance of the toymaker, Herr Drosselymeyer, an eight year veteran Issac Sharratt, and the young Clara, Alana Griffith.
Her Tannebaum older sister Marie, Luz San Miguel, and brother Fritz, Garrett Glassman enjoy the festivities, as does Drosselmeyer's nephew Karl, guest artist Arionel Vargas, who courts the beautiful Marie. In Pink's Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer orchestrates the fantastic dream the entire evening complete with a sprinkling of magic dust, that sends Clara, Marie and Fritz on their dream into the Land of Sweets after Fritz changes into the Nutcracker and defeats the Mouse King.

When the first act ends, Drosselmeyer invites the children into the Land of Snow, and they meet the Snow Queen, the gorgeous Marize Fumero where the four cavort amid the 13 snowflake ensemble in there flowing waltz length skirts covered with glittering "snow." Every year, this finale to the first act, becomes a highlight for young and old, and completely mesmerize the audience preparing them for Act !!, the Land of Sweets.

Pink's Land of Sweets envision a grand carousel, one of the most elaborate and thrilling ever, with fabulous animals and a lighted canopy. Dancers of the world sit atop the animals, and then enter to the joy of Clara and Fritz. Children under the direction from the Milwaukee Ballet School &Academy perform throughout The Nutcracker with amazing poise as angels, geese, Mother Ginger's Russian children, and tiny soldiers, and becomes a charming delight in the production.

Mother Ginger and Her Children with Clara in the Land of Sweets by Mark Frohna

The Land of Sweets features the sensuality of Arabian Dancers, Itzel Hernadez and Patrick Howell, the joy of the Chinese Dragon accompanied by his master Parker Brasser-Vos, and a trio of colorful Jacks led by Barry Molina along with Alexander Negron and Wyatt Pendelton. Their flips and hops tantalize the audience and demonstrate the dancer's immense athletic prowess, even within this comedic choreography. Serene beauty arrives in the form of the finale pas de deux between Marie and Fritz, now dressed in formal ballet costumes, once again, extraordinary talent on stage.

With the advent of several retiring company members last year, Pink added six new dancers to the 2016 Nutcracker. :Jonathan Batista (Brazil), Marie Collins (China), Randy Crespo (Cuba), Alexander Negron (New York City), Lizzie Tripp (MKE Ballet Intern) and Lahna Vanderbush (Japan). These performers with diverse cultural and ballet training enhance and elevate the MKE company's international and national presence in the ballet world. This ensures a sparkling future for ballet as an art form and keeping MKE Ballet at the forefront of the advancement.

Pink and the MKE Ballet's The Nutcracker continues to be treasured as a city tradition for years to come-one of the best in the country-a near perfect production. This timeless art and music reminds audiences they need to see the world through wonder and delight, embrace magic found in ordinary life is possible, creativity and imagination remains a powerful key to the future, and that extraordinary art lifts the spirit and soul. The genius MKE Ballet technical production, talent and score touches the human heart with enchantment offering hope well into the new year.

For further information on the The Nutcracker, future Milwaukee Ballet Productions in 2017 or the Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy, please call :414.902.2105 or

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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan

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