Re-imaginings of originally presented productions often fail in execution and relevance. Some, such as Wicked's re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz, become blockbusters of their own. Sarasota Ballet's John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker is an homage to The Nutcracker and a beautiful tribute to Sarasota's own John and Mable Ringling. British choreographer Matthew Hart skillfully infused the theme, beauty and elegance of the original Nutcracker with the history, acrobatics and spectacle of the circus. Throw in a nod to The Rockettes and Michael Jackson's Thriller and you've got quite production indeed.

At curtain rise we join Clara (Ryoko Sadoshima), her ornery brother Fritz (Ivan Duarte) and their parents played by Ricardo Graziano and Katelyn May who prepare to board a train headed to New York at Christmastime.

Upon arrival at Grand Central Station JohnRingling (David Tlaiye) and his nephew John Ringling North (Logan Learned) enter with the spectacle of the circus in tow. Clara and Fritz are fascinated and want to stay but are rushed off to a party at a grand hotel.

There we are introduced to a myriad of colorful characters such as the flamboyant hotel manager (Jamie Carter), bellhops, hotel guests and party children. To Clara's surprise, the Ringling entourages are guests at the party, where they entertain and gift the children with presents. Fritz receives a wind-up mouse that he does not appreciate. Clara cherishes her gift of a nutcracker.

After the party, Clara forgets her nutcracker gift and returns to find it in the lobby. The nutcracker and all of the other toys become life-size and come to life. The first act ends with a big production number where Mable Ringling (Victoria Hulland), descends from the ceiling on a half moon to join John. Clara's parents become the Snow King and Queen and we are treated to the lovely Waltz of Snowflakes.

Act II takes us to Sarasota and a Big Top Show in honor of Clara. One at a time we are introduced to elaborate costumes (Peter Doucherty), embellished lighting (Aaron Muhl), and a host of prismatic characters as Ringmaster (Logan Learned) beckons equestrians, zebras, Arabians, elephants, wild cats, acrobats, clowns, tightrope performers and a trapeze act staring Prince (Lucas Erni) and Sugar (Kate Honea). The expanding Christmas tree is a spectacle all of its own. The big uncontrollable, motorized mouse adds a touch of humorous antics to the show. The Waltz of Roses is majestic and beautiful and added all the more to the class of ballet art form.

Ms. Sadoshima was delightful as Clara. Ivan Duarte as Fritz practically stole the show. What he lacked in stature he made up in leaps and jumps that got a few "awes" from the audience. David Tlaiye and Victoria Hulland are simply beautiful together. Up to the task as usual Logan Learned did an outstanding job as John Ringling North and The Nutcracker. The ballet was exceptional and utilized every inch of the stage. Everyone was busy at all times. Wherever you looked something was going on simultaneously across the stage. Bravo for this unique production in which Sarasota and the Ringling family can be proud.

For more information on the Sarasota Ballet visit

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From This Author Carolan Trbovich

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