The “Battle of the Nutcrackers” begins as Nevada Ballet opens its “reimagined” rendition of the season’s favorite, “The Nutcracker.”
As the overture starts, the music is fantastic. The tempos are bright, the violins together. The evening looks promising. Jack Gaughen is a responsive conductor and works well with the dancers.
Unfortunately, the first scene is disjointed and lacks continuity. The relationships between the characters aren’t strongly established; the choreography is uninspired.
The doll house gives an interesting perspective of seeing small parts of the life of the central characters, the Stahlbaum family, but opening lighting design is dim and leaves the viewer feeling frustrated rather than enamored.
This problem plagued most of the first act.
The players exit the house to start the action of the ballet and the relationship between the scale of the house and what is occurring on stage is awkward. The concept is interesting in that it is reminiscent of the golden mechanical palace that Dr. Drosselmeyer presents to the family in the original series of E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, Chapter 2,” but it definitely needs some of the kinks ironed out.
Relief was offered by a well danced Clara (Betsy Lucas). Her lines were clean and her movement was dynamic and effervescent. Harlequin and Columbine (Kyle Weight and Hannah Schiller) also shone in the ever popular doll dances.
The Battle Scene should be renamed Shock and Awe. The set was magnificent; you could hear a sigh in the audience as the famous Christmas tree was revealed.
The children were crisp in their movements. But as soon as the cannon went off — that was it.
The Snow Scene was exceptionally beautiful. It alone was well worth the price of admission. Alissa Dale was magnificent. The costumes were wonderful. Its only burp was the lovely Clara sailing off into the sky on her rocking horse without her prince.
Act Two was significantly better. Although Artistic Director James Canfield took the music out of its intended order, it worked. It gave the second act more flow.
Instead of a disjointed presentation of gifts to Clara in the Land of the Sweets we had the feeling we were traveling through a fantastical dreamland.
Divertissement No I, Spanish, was humorous with a bull charging a flirtatious female toreador (Steven Goforth and Madison Oliver). The clear standout was Divertissement No II, Arabian.
Mary La Croix was elegant but sinuous. Her movements drew the audience in, definite proof that bigger is not always better. James Cleary, also fabulous, danced the Peacock. The audience responded enthusiastically. It helped that the costuming was so beautiful, enhancing the choreography.
The Grand Pas de Deux dance by Clara and the Nutcracker Prince (Braeden Barnes) was lovely, though lacking in the normal excitement of an occasional overhead lift.
It clearly demonstrated the development of Clara from a young girl blossoming into womanhood. Her dazzled awe at her first kisses, her teasing playfulness — sorry, I still missed the lifts.
Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” was originally commissioned by Moscow’s Imperial Theaters. The ballet, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanova, premiered in 1892 and was based on Hoffman’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
Although not a success at the premier, it has become the largest grossing ballet providing approximately 40 percent of most dance companies’ gross revenues.
The Nevada Ballet’s Nutcracker has its share of misses but it also had a great deal of wows. As the company continues to mature, we look forward to more wows.
Is it a show worth seeing? Definitely.