Photo: Louisville Ballet
The Brown-Forman Nutcracker
Choreography by Val Caniparoli
Music by Pytor Ilych Tchaikovsky
Orchestra Conducted by Tara Simoncic
A review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
There are a few traditions that are undeniably part of the Holiday season: visiting Santa Claus, hearing Christmas carols either on the street, and the Louisville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Of course, there are many, many others but for The Nutcracker gets me even more into the Holiday mood. Perhaps the reason why is as I’ve gotten older, I have started to experience the visual and auditory splendor of the perennial favorite through a different focus, that being the reactions of the children in the audience.
This year’s production is no different. Contained within this Nutcracker there is the familiar and classical music of Tchaikovsky performed by our talented and venerable Louisville Orchestra under the baton of Tara Simoncic, stunning costumes and scenery curated by Peter Cazalet, and neat lighting effects created by Michael T. Ford. While these are audience pleasers in and of themselves, the Louisville Ballet’s Nutcracker has something that other companies do not have…. magic! I’m talking about magic outside the effects created by the dancers. There are actual illusions happening on stage, such as levitation and other fun tricks. We can thank Marshall Magoon for that.
The ballet centers on Maria von Stahlbaum (Erin Langston Evans) and her family: grandparents (Royal Hartwig and Helen Daigle), mother and father (Leigh Anne Albrechta and John Aaron Brewer), and her precocious brother Fritz (Alex Meadows). During a Christmas Eve fête thrown by the von Stahlbaums the town’s toymaker/tinker, Herr Drosselmeyer (Mark Krieger) comes by bearing gifts for Marie and Fritz. Fritz receives a toy rat but immediately misbehaves and it is put away under lock and key. Marie at first receives an empty box but through some really nifty magic courtesy of the toymaker, she is gifted with a stunning Nutcracker Prince (Jeremy Hanson).
When the party disperses and the children go off to bed, Marie comes back to play with her new doll, but quickly falls asleep and dreams of the Nutcracker defeating a Rat King and then turning into a handsome prince. Throughout the dream, Marie and the Prince dance their way through a beautiful snow-covered woods and happen upon a grand hall where they then meet a cast of characters that include the Sugar Plum Fairy (Ashley Thursby), the Cavalier (Brandon Ragland), The Rose (Emily Reinking O’Dell), Mother Derby (Phillip Velinov), and a host of others. All the while, Herr Drosselmeyer acts as a guide for the slumbering Maria.
Ms. O’Dell’s Rose could have used a little polish as she was not always consistent with her Flower sisters, but once she got through the multiple pirouettes that moved her across the breadth of the stage she was more centered and graceful. Speaking of which, the dances between Ashley Thursby and Brandon Ragland were almost flawless. I say almost only because there were a couple of times that there seemed to be small hesitancies before a lift or drop. I accept those hiccups because safety and confidence should always be first and foremost. The same could be said for the pairing of Ms. Evans and Mr. Hanson. Great care and finesse could be seen in all of their movements.
There are many, many dancers on stage throughout this performance and I truly wish I could comment on each of you, but I will say that every one of you exemplified the amount of craft, care, blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to be a part of a ballet troupe.
I will close with comments heard from the children around me: “That was funny, Momma.”, “Is it snowing up there?”, “How did they do that?”, and my favorite comment was a simple “Wow!” heard multiple times.
Yes, this Nutcracker has it all: intrigue, comedy, beauty, pageantry, elegance, and most importantly…magic.
The Brown-Forman Nutcracker
December 14, 2019
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.