With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror and the Christmas music season officially under way, we can expect plenty of concerts in concert halls, schools and churches.
Nothing heralds Christmas better than the arrival of the enduring Nutcracker Ballet with Tchaikovsky’s famous musical score. Perhaps of all the aspects of enchantment that grace the Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” probably the most winning is the children from the different ballet schools.
After all, Christmas is about a birth of a baby, and while the adult cast members change in “The Nutcracker” year after year, it’s really the kids who fuel its air of renewal and provide its shiniest magic. It’s the youngster disguised as a gingerbread cookie who steals the show.
This year I was lucky enough to escort my 7 year old granddaughter Lily and her 3 year old sister Amelia to see this timeless classic. Needless to say the experience was exhilarating. From the moment they put on their brocade party dresses with shinny patent leather shoes to the donning of their red coats with navy velvet collars I knew we were off to making an unforgettable memory.
The Joffrey cast does double and even triple duty, appearing in character and ballet parts, which underscore that Clara’s rabbit-hole journey, is but a beautiful dream. Kara Zimmerman and Fabrice Calmels made two remarkable transformations — from the upright and harried Stahlbaums, Clara’s parents, to the refined Snow Queen and King.
Similarly, John Mark Giragosian pulled off the mischievous boy Fritz with un-self-conscious playfulness. He channeled his buoyant energy into the arching leaps and assured spins of the Snow Prince, and then into the kitschy Tea from China variation, joined by the equally peppy Caitlin Meighan.
The ballet’s latter half, while lovely, lacks the spontaneity of the first. The flower waltz is a weaker version of the shimmery snow scene. The choreographer perfectly interpreted the urgency of the score’s snow storm, with a flurry of ballerinas and danseurs flying across the stage on the diagonal, and then settling into crystalline flake formations.
Matthew Adamczyk’s Drosselmeyer was dapper and mysterious, a memorable uncle from a bygone day.
After all is said and done, the “Nutcracker” is for memory-making –- for the youngsters watching and those performing. The youngest will store these special moments to relive many times over as adults.