The Nutcracker

With its pleasing Christmas fantasy for a storyline, its classical centerpiece of the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier, and its host of divertissements and specialty dances all set to a Tchaikovsky score, The Nutcracker is more than just a holiday tradition, it is a showcase for a company's talent. So, despite fewer scheduled performances this year, the Colorado Ballet has quadruple cast the leading roles to give more of its talented dancers the spotlight. And again, as has been the case for many years now, the company's depth sparkles in its annual production.

Photo of the Snowflakes
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Sporting newly purchased sets and costumes designed by Jose Varona in 1986 for the San Francisco Ballet, this year's production offers some new wrinkles, principally an early behind-the-scenes look at Herr Drosselmeyer's workshop preparations for the Stahlbaum's annual Christmas soiree, and a consolidation of the two doll dances. The show clocks in at a children-friendly one hour and 45 minutes, including intermission. Adult aficionados, though, may find themselves wanting for more dancing and fewer edits.

Photo of Koichi Kubo as the Cavalier and Sharon Wehner as the Sugarplum Fairy
Koichi Kubo as the Cavalier
and Sharon Wehner as
the Sugarplum Fairy
Photo: Terry Shapiro
In the Saturday evening performance on opening weekend (the third performance in the run), longtime dancing partners Sharon Wehner and Koichi Kubo were center stage as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier. Their collaborative history showed in the graceful sweeping lines and relaxed lifts and balancing sequences of their pas de deux.

Photo of Dana Benton as Clara
Dana Benton as Clara
Photo: Terry Shapiro

Dana Benton's Clara was not only graceful and dreamy, but captured the key facets of the teenage heroine's personality: the teasing older sister, the imaginative child, and the romantic young woman. Masahiro Momosen shone as her Nutcracker Prince, beaming the entire evening as he lifted and spun Benton with ease and leapt with exuberance.

Photo of Masahiro Momose as the Nutcracker Prince
Masahiro Momose as
the Nutcracker Prince
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Andrew Thompson remained intriguingly dark and mysterious as Drosselmeyer, while effortlessly communicating the details of the magician's intentions. Thompson's knack for avoiding any literal clichés while orchestrating the extraordinary events in Clara's life infused the familiar story with spontaneity.

Photo of Chandra Kuykendall in the Arabian
Chandra Kuykendall in
the Arabian
Photo: Terry Shapiro

Maria Mosina and Sayaka Karasugi were coquettish to Igor Vassine's rogue in the Marzipan. Chandra Kuykendall's seductive powers made us wish for an extended Arabian, though Nurlan Abougaliev's cartoonish beard detracted from his subtle performance.

Photo of Jay Clark as Mother Ginger
Jay Clark as
Mother Ginger
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Janelle Cooke, Shunsuke Amma, and John Henry Reid drew loud applause for their breakneck, athletic Russian. Pleasing laughter followed Takashi Sogitani, as he vaulted over the Chinese dragon. Trumpets and castanets heralded a sassy Spanish chocolate, performed by Cara Cooper, Makino Hayashi, and Misha Bobchinsky. Jay Clark's Mother Ginger was a hoot as always.

Akiro Endo, in a resplendent holiday vest, led the orchestra through a bright, zippy rendition of the magnificent score.

Photo of Janelle Cook as the Doll
Janelle Cook as
the Doll
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Of all of Denver's major performing arts organizations, the Colorado Ballet is the one most in need of public support at this time, and what better way of showing it than treating yourself to one of the season's annual delicacies, The Nutcracker. Performances run through December 29th. 303-837-8888 or

Bob Bows


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