Delightfully fun ‘Nutcracker’ overcomes opening-day flaws

Those who think it rarely snows in Las Vegas, or that magicians are just illusionists, or that candies, cookies and hot beverages aren’t likely to be good dancers, should treat themselves to a visit to Nevada Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” at Paris Las Vegas. All of this, and much more, is handily disproved in the annual production.

Danced to the music of Tchaikovsky, this version uses the choreography of Peter Anastos.

It is lavish and fun, from the faux snow to all the quick turns of various dancers portraying treats from other countries and the expert, spotlighted solos and pas de deux.

Marcus Bugler, repeating his role from last year, is the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer, dazzling the guests at a lavish Victorian Christmas party with tricks and gifts, including the Nutcracker for young Clara. After the Nutcracker is broken, Clara is heartbroken and comes from bed to comfort it, falling asleep next to it. Adventures ensue, including fights between mice and soldiers (mostly children from the ballet theater’s academy); the trip to the Kingdom of Snow; and some jolly performances by coffee, tea, marzipan, chocolate and more, all come alive in the Land of Sweets. The Sugarplum Fairy (Alissa Dale) and her cavalier (Grigori Arakelyan) add talent and grace in the land, before a fun-filled finale.

(Different performances have different casts.)

Jamey Gallagher and Tara Foy return as the grandparents in the party scene and add a special charm with their moves and their traditional, Russian-style costuming. At this performance, Gallagher had the added duty of escorting “Peepshow” star Holly Madison to the party. Dressed in ice blue for her cameo, she mingled, smiled, shared a few steps and exited stage right.

Highlights, not surprisingly, included the star turn by the Russian Nougat, Jeremy Bannon-Neches here, and the exotic pas de deux of the Arabian coffee performers, Mary LaCroix and Barrington Lohr. Tess Bernard as the mouse doll — even in full mask, bodysuit and leggings — gave her character more sassiness than is usually seen.

A couple of what seemed to be opening-day glitches: the faux snow fell so heavily and for so long that it almost covered up the Snow Queen and King (Sarah Fuhrman and Bannon-Neches here) as well as the corps de ballet Snowflakes, and even Clara (Leigh Hartley) and her handsome Nutcracker Doll (Griffin Whiting) as they arrived to the scene of Clara’s dreams. Kudos to all the dancers who didn’t seem even to notice the surface had probably become slick.

The fog machines used at the opening of the second act poured out enough mist that for a moment, some dancers could be seen only through openings in the haze. (A few in the front rows waved their hands and programs about to dispel the fog enveloping them, too.) But most effects worked fine and added much, including the impressive lighting, the detailed costuming and the dramatic “growth” of the Christmas tree.

The continuing negative is that the show is performed to recorded music when the city has so many fine musicians (the ballet theater has performed at other performances with some of them). And there were quick slips and rough landings. All of this scarcely distracts when, usually, there are so many onstage — including talented adults and plenty of cute children — in an annual outing as indigenous to the holidays as sugarplums and snow.

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