The Nutcracker

Aside from its well-earned spot among the annual top-flight holiday entertainment traditions, The Nutcracker remains one of the premier showpieces of ballet, having both classical pas de deux and ensembles, as well as folk-flavored divertissements, which together show off the depth of the performing company, as we see in the Colorado Ballet's current production.

Snowflakes and flying sleigh
Snowflakes and flying sleigh
Photo: Mike Watson
The libretto—adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by way of Alexander Dumas' adapted story The Nutcracker—is, simply put, about an eccentric and mysterious man with an eye patch who gives his goddaughter a nutcracker doll for Christmas, precipitating a series of wonderous and dreamy events, with insightful psychological undertones.

The ballet is filled with highlights, beginning with Herr Drosselmeyer's (Gregory K. Gonzales) incredible toys—the Columbine and the Soldier—that come to life to dazzle the children. As always, Gonzales' pantomime says it all, as he tends to Drosselmeyer's creations, who humorously, in a mechanical fashion, imitate "real" dancers.

Dana Benton as Clara and Francisco Estevez as the Nutcracker Prince
Dana Benton as Clara and
Francisco Estevez as the Nutcracker Prince
Photo: Mike Watson
Soon after Drosselmeyer's magic, which regales young and old partiers alike, Clara's dream sequence begins, with a symbolic retelling of recent events—the boys chasing her and her nutcracker doll becoming the Mouse King and his soldiers doing battle with the Prince, etc. The mice, whose death-rattle histrionics, when they are later defeated by the Nutcracker Prince's troops, are hilarious, as the 6-year old sitting next to me attested.

But in the process of defeating the Mouse King, the Nutcracker Prince suffers a mortal wound that, once again—just as he repaired the toy Nutcracker doll after Clara's brother Fritz had broken its arm—Drosselmeyer fixes, bringing the Nutcracker Prince back to life, sans mask, as Clara's dream partner.

Maria Mosina as the Sugarplum Fairy and Alexei Tyukov as the Cavalier
Maria Mosina as the Sugarplum Fairy
and Alexei Tyukov as the Cavalier
Photo: Mike Watson
After a beautiful pas de deux between the handsome Nutcracker Prince (Francisco Estevez) and the darling Clara (Dana Benton), including a series of marvelous and seemingly effortless lifts, we are transported to the land of snow, where the snowflakes come alive, and the snow flurries on stage increase in intensity, until Clara and her Prince sail away on a magical sleigh, above the legions of dancing snowflakes and the accumulated snowfall.

After intermission, having observed the kids in the lobby gleefully trying to decide which doll in the store best suits their tastes, the second act kicks off in the Land of Sweets, where Clara and the Nutcracker Prince meet the Sugarplum Fairy (Maria Mosina) and her Cavalier (Alexei Tyukov). In her 20th and last season with the company, before her retirement after 25 years en pointe as a professional, Mosina sparkles in every detail and gesture. Her chemistry with Tyukov is sweet, as they dazzle us with their virtuosity, together and in their solos.

Asuka Sasaki as Dew Drop
Asuka Sasaki as Dew Drop
Photo: Mike Watson
As always, the lead roles and flashy divertisements are double- and triple-cast, so the challenges are spread around: Spanish Chocolate, with its snappy flair; the intimate and seductive Arabian Coffee; the comical, six-legged dragon and vaulting rider that represents Chinese Tea; the coquettish, showy Marzipan; those athletic and indefatigable Russians; the cute kids as Polichinelles; and the uproarious Mother Ginger.

Meistro Adam Flatt and the Colorado Ballet Orchestra perform a bright and perfectly-paced rendition of Tchaikovsky's famous score. Jose Varona's original scenery and costumes, supplemented with additional costumes by the Colorado Ballet wardrobe department, provide a rich subtext and sparkling overlay to the action.

The Colorado Ballet's presentation of The Nutcracker runs through December 24th. For tickets:

Bob Bows

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