Completely revamped for last year’s holiday season, Festival Ballet Providence’s updated version of THE NUTCRACKER continues to shine.

By: Dec. 18, 2022
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In 2021, Festival Ballet Providence announced a brand new version of the holiday staple, THE NUTCRACKER, fully reimagined by the company's Artistic Curator, Yury Yanowsky, and Company Director Kathleen Breen Combs. Moving the show away from the Providence Performing Arts Center to the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium, audiences were treated to new sets, new costumes, new choreography, and, as usual, spectacular dancing.

Festival Ballet Providence has returned to the stage this holiday season with this version of the Nutcracker, which continues delightful additions for everyone: children, first-time ballet goers, and balletomanes alike. (Please note: this review reflects the cast of the evening performance on Saturday, December 17th and may vary on other dates).

During the party scene in Act I, David DuBois as Herr Drosselmeyer is always a delight as Clara's magical godfather, and commands the stage every time he appears portraying Clara and Fritz respectfully, FBP students Cynthia Van Pelt and Cullen Gamache are very well suited to their roles. Van Pelt does well both technically, including the portion of the party scene where she dances on pointe, and through her stage presence. Gamache imbues Fritz with just the right level of smug brattiness that makes the character stand out. Last year's addition of two panda bears (Grace Campbell and Chloe Olsen) alongside the more traditional life-sized Harlequin and Columbine dolls (Juliana Godlewski and Corinne Mulcahy) remain a crowd-pleaser.

The battle scene between the Nutcracker (Kobe Atwood Courtney) the Mouse King (Clay Murray), and their respective armies, is still a strength of this production. The choreography is at times menacing, and other times very funny. Both qualities are important for a satisfying battle scene, and are so often lacking in one way or the other in many versions.

While each of the sets by Peter Horne is impressive throughout the show, the wintery forest landscape that serves as the backdrop for the snow scene is a particular standout, enhanced by the copious snow that falls through to the end of the act. Emma Guertin as the Snow Queen and Mamuka Kikalishvili as the Snow King demonstrate solid partnering, and the snowflake corps perform with palpable energy.

Children of all ages, from the community as well as the Festival Ballet Providence School, are incorporated into much of the show, including in Act II, the Land of Sweets. From the very young angels who open the act to the polichinelles who accompany Mother Ginger (Joshua Tuason), it is a delight to see so many children have the opportunity to perform alongside the company.

A few stand-outs among the divertissements include the Coffee pas de deux, which continues the excellent partnering between Emma Guertin and Mamuka Kikalishvili, although with quite a different variety of entwining lifts than during the snow scene. Guertin also shows excellent extensions and lines throughout the dance. Kirsten Evans brings her signature precision and control to Dew Drop during the Waltz of the Flowers. Performing difficult movements such as Italian fouettes with apparent ease, Evans is perfectly suited to Festival Ballet's version of the role.

Anna Lisa Wilkins is lovely as the Sugar Plum Fairy. There is a softness to her movement, especially her port de bras, that works exceedingly well with the choreography. This is equally true in both the grand pas de deux (partnered by Alex Lantz as the Cavalier) and in the iconic variation.

The only thing that detracted from enjoyment of the show - and for which the company cannot be blamed - was the profusion of late audience members. While they were held until between dances, the number of people who arrived throughout the first act up to the beginning of the battle scene (about 30 minutes into the show!), was truly disruptive. That a number of people also hurried from their seats well before the Act II finale, when the dancers return to stage to say their goodbyes to Clara, was also disappointing to see.

Festival Ballet Providence's current iteration of the Nutcracker is a solid and satisfying combination of thrilling choreography danced well, enhanced by every technical aspects, from the costumes to the sets and the lighting. Be sure to check it out this holiday season.

Tickets for all remaining performances are on sale now at the Vets/PPAC Box Office, by phone at 401-421-ARTS, or online at

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