The Nutcracker

Among the many rituals that make the holiday season memorable is The Nutcracker. And while the critics may be jaded by the sheer number of companies that produce a version of this ballet each year, the experience is anything but routine for younger audience members and those who bring them.

The consistently finest production in the metro area is, of course, that of the Colorado Ballet. I say, "of course," because the quality and size of the company keeps growing every year. This is particularly noticeable in a pageant like The Nutcracker where the variety of casting and specialty dances can tax smaller companies with fewer principals and soloists, and a different caliber of experience and talent.

Chandra Gercke is, in temperament and appearance, a fine Clara, and in the first act is counterbalanced by the boyish and mischievous Petr Zahradnicek as Fritz. As always, Andrew Thompson adds a darker, unknown quality as Herr Drosselmeyer.

The battle between the minions of the Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King seemed less threatening and more comical this year, a choice that was neither dramatically nor aesthetically effective. And while handsome Zhuang Hua is generally convincing as the Prince, his struggles in the early going with his lifts further contributed to the diminishment of the martial theme.

However, the rest of the production met all expectations. The early appearances of the Columbine and Pierrot dolls, with their wind-up dances, and the exuberant nurse and soldier dolls, created an early splash.

The snowflakes were glorious, evoking the perfect serenity of a winter evening's snowfall. Maria Mossina and Igor Vassin, as the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier, are the elegant classical Russian centerpiece to Tchaikovsky's music.

Then, in rapid succession, the bold Spanish, sensuous Arabian, playful Chinese, powerful Russian, coquettish Marzipan, and comical Mother Ginger dances, bring the ballet to a rousing climax. Before we leave this magical world, we are treated to a final bravura, an extended pas de deux, both scintillating and sublime, with Mossina and Vassin.

The Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker runs through December 29th. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows


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