Sacramento Ballet delivers holiday masterpiece
Sacramento Community Center Theater1301 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
The Nutcracker has been a staple of the Christmas season for countless families over the years, and this presentation by the Sacramento Ballet and the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, staged by the ballet’s artistic directors, Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, and choreographed by Cunningham after Marius Petipa, proves to be a grand spectacle intermingled with costumes, dancing and music that have to be seen and heard live to truly be appreciated.
Clara (Molly Odell in this instance; she alternates the part with Kate Lidster and Serrah-Gayle Neal) is celebrating Christmas day with her family and house guests. Her magician and toysmith uncle, Dr. Drosselmeyer (Cunningham), arrives and brings with him an elegant nutcracker as a gift for Clara. When the house goes to sleep, Clara sneaks back into the family room and sleeps under the Christmas tree. With a little midnight magic from her uncle, she is transported to another world, where the Mouse King is trying to take over. The nutcracker becomes life-sized and leads an army of toys against the Mouse King, defeating him with Clara’s help.
The now-human Nutcracker then takes Clara away via balloon to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy, where she is spectator to dances from around the world that each represent different foods.
The first act holds the main plot of the story, that of the Nutcracker’s mostly comic struggle with the Mouse King. The second is a majestic display of not only talented dancers and demanding dancing, but also a variety of different world styles of dance. Each has a representative country and all are adroit performances.
The dancer representing China twirls tens of times, while the pas de deux of the Arabian dancers is conducted with elegant and sensual movements that evoke the style. The most intense performance in these geographical dancing-travels is that of the Russian leader, whose squats and leaps make the trepak a sight to behold.
As is natural with performances of The Nutcracker, the ultimate finale begins with the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier. The two make the stage their plaything and dance with amazing aptitude, making every twist, bend, lift and jump look as easy as breathing.
Tchaikovsky’s score and the Sacramento Philharmonic’s performance are nothing short of spectacular, from the sudden popped-up head of conductor Henrik Jul Hansen at show’s beginning to each of the play’s famous Tchaikovsky melodies. The suites are performed beautifully, making it a perfect introduction to live classical music for children.
Every costume and set, designed by Theresa Kimbrough and Alain Vaës, respectively, has been created with childhood Christmas wonder in mind.
This production remains a classic tale for young and old and has been staged by the Sacramento Ballet for nearly a quarter of a century. It is the perfect show for people who have never seen ballet and have heard little live music.