Canfield has surprises in store for Nevada Ballet's 'Nutcracker'

Those attending the Nevada Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker" over the years have come to appreciate Peter Anastos' choreography as sleek and even. Elaborate and appropriate costuming and dancing, as well as grand staging, complete a perfect taste of holiday pleasure.

The size, design and lighting of the Paris Las Vegas stage give the show more space and presence. Shadows of the performers on the rich, red side walls, especially in the second act, were almost as striking as the dancers onstage.

Nevada Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield has added some touches and effects -- including a couple of surprises -- to assure that this is a "Nutcracker" that can please those attending for the first time, as well as offering enjoyable differences to those who have made a visit an annual tradition.

The premise of the dance, which includes more than four dozen adults and children here, is nearly the same as it has been for decades. The Stahlbaums are having a Victorian-era Christmas Eve party at their lavish home. Friends and family, as well as the magician Herr Drosselmeyer (Marcus Bugler), are in attendance.

There is dancing by the party guests, some innocent conflict among the children, and a gracious grandmother and grandfather (Jamey Gallagher and Tara Foy) who could steal the show given enough time. The "garland" dance, resembling a dance around a maypole, shows the children's intricate choreography.

Drosselmeyer amuses the children with a few tricks before presenting large gift boxes, containing a ballerina (Betsy Lucas), a mouse (Amiee Schleimer) and the Nutcracker (Griffin Whiting). The Nutcracker immediately catches the attention of young Clara (Leigh Hartley), and Drosselmeyer soon says it is hers. Joy turns to despair when, after a pas de deux with Clara, the doll breaks.

The party is long over when Clara creeps back to the living room to stay with her broken gift. Herr Drosselmeyer appears again and fixes the doll. After a battle between the Nutcracker and evil (but adorable) mice, mini-mice, some soldiers and an athletic Mouse King (Anthony Paparelli), the Nutcracker leads Clara to the Kingdom of the Snow and then on to the Land of the Sweets. They sit together and enjoy the performances by candies and drinks turned dancers, before an uplifting ending that seems to assure happily ever after for all.

A continuing issue is that music, by Peter Tchaikovsky, is pre-recorded. There were a few missteps and some short rough passages, but nothing to distract from the joy at hand.

"Snow" falling onto the stage during the first act makes for a vision that epitomizes the holidays for many.

Longtime Nevada Ballet standout Alissa Dale is lovely as the Sugarplum Fairy in a sparkling lilac tutu. Hartley accomplished leaps and other moves with the cool confidence usually demonstrated only in older dancers, while Grigori Arakelyan did double duty as the somewhat strict father and then a dramatic Cavalier.

Cameron Findley did a special turn as the Russian Nougat come to life, with cute saltwater taffy sailors and lovely flowers adding to the vision of it all.

They and the rest of the dancers contributed to a holiday-ready gift for the audience.


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