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The Nutcracker

One of the cutest opening-night rituals of the Colorado Ballet's annual production of this holiday classic is to introduce the sugarplums, a couple of dozen darling second-grade girls whose folks have made an appreciable donation to the company. Following their debut, they sit in the first couple of rows at the Ellie and watch the production.

If we need any reminding why this holiday treat never grows old, sitting behind this fun group will take care of that.

After the hustle and bustle of the season is captured in a street scene set to the overture, the party begins at Dr. and Frau Stahlbaum's. As the adults sip their champagne, the kids buzz about like a conclave of hummingbirds supping on sugarplum blossoms.

Dana Benton as Clara and Gregory K. Gonzales as Herr Drosselmeyer
Dana Benton as Clara
and Gregory K. Gonzales as Herr Drosselmeyer
Photo: Terry Shapiro
All of this is quite pleasing to the first two rows and those behind them, but when Drosselmeyer (Gregory Gonzales) unveils the Columbine and Soldier Dolls, the oohs and aahs bubble up from the bubble gum set. Gonzales never ceases to wow us with his hocus-pocus and legerdemain. No one does better pantomime.

According to Gil Boggs, artistic director of the company, some roles are quintuple cast for this year's run, not only making a lot of dancers very happy with opportunities to shine, but once again showing the incredible depth of talent available to fill out this demanding ballet.

Dana Benton as Clara and Adam Still as the Nutcracker Prince
Dana Benton as Clara
and Adam Still as the Nutcracker Prince
Photo: Mike Watson
Dana Benton and Adam Still make for a marvelous Clara and Nutcracker Prince. The petite Benton delivers girlish wonder and delight, while Still's earnestness and strength make for memorable encounters and beautiful lifts.

Chandra Kuykendall and newcomer Domenico Luciano match up well as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier, trading elegant gestures and sharing fluid transitions, smooth lifts, fancy dismounts, and delicate landings.

Sharon Wehner as Dew Drop
Sharon Wehner as Dew Drop
Photo: Mike Watson
The rats take slapstick to new heights with their melodramatic demises, drawing rave reviews from the peanut gallery. As always, Drosselmeyer resurrects the Nutcracker Prince, just as he bandaged the wooden facsimile after Fritz broke the arm, saving the day for his godchild, Clara.

Artists o fthe Colorado Ballet in Snow
Artists of the Colorado Ballet in Snow
Photo: Terry Shapiro
The first act ends with the snowflakes, a dazzling combination of ensemble synchronicity, increasing snowfall, heavenly tones from the Evans choir, and an extended pas de deux for Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, culminating in their magical chariot flight to the Land of Sweets, enrapturing young and old alike.

As the curtain rises for the second time, eight little angels herald Clara and the Nutcracker Prince's arrival, drawing squeals from the sugarplums. The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier kick off the festivities with a well-sculpted classical pas de deux, engaging rows 1 and 2 and everyone else, before the rest of the desserts are unveiled.

Shelby Dyer and Luis Valdes in the Arabian
Shelby Dyer and Luis Valdes
in the Arabian
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Spanish Hot Chocolate—Morgan Buchanan, Cara Cooper and Christophor Moulton—is served with flair a la castanets. Shelby Dyer's seductive come hither gazes and Luis Valdes' sensual caresses make for a memorable Arabian Coffee. The laughs of delight come quickly and easily with the entrance of Chinese Tea, topped off by Francisco Estevez' playful vaults and a glittering dragon with rhythmic blinking eyes. The coquettish and flirtatious Danish Marzipan—Casey Dalton, Asuka Sasaki, and Jesse Marks—brings rueful smiles and giggles. The Russian Candy Canes—Lesley Allred, Sean Omandam, Kevin Gaël Thomas—take our breath away with their exuberant leaps and bounds. Cute is the word for the young Polichinelles, accompanied by Mother Ginger (Rony Lenis), who boogies with the best. Dew Drop (Caitlin Valentine-Ellis) and the Flowers bring us back to the classical, with a fluid, yet delicate dance.

Maria Mosina as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Alexei Tyukov as the Cavalier
Maria Mosina as the Sugar Plum Fairy
and Alexei Tyukov as the Cavalier
Photo: Mike Watson
The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier return for a pas de deux, alternately silky, showy, and crisp.

All the confections gather for a flashy good-bye, before we return to the Stahlbaum's, for a sleeping Clara with her Nutcracker doll, and Drosselmeyer. Was it all a dream?

Watching maestro Adam Flatt inspire the 52-piece Colorado Ballet Orchestra to a sensuous rendition of Tchaikovsky's magnificent score is as sweet as the divertissements.

The Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker runs through December 28th, including weekday and afternoon performances. 303-837-8888 or www.coloradoballet.com.

Bob Bows

 

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