A Holiday Dream Comes True in The Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker
“Is that real snow?” whispered my six-year-old daughter as white flakes floated and swirled to the snowy forest floor.
“No,” I shook my head as I watched her face. Her eyes were wide, lit by icy blue stage lights as she watched Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, and whirling snowflakes twirl and leap on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. “The Nutcracker” has returned to brighten another holiday season with the enchanting story of a young girl’s magical dream.
Generations of Colorado families have made watching “The Nutcracker” a beloved holiday tradition, which is a testament to the quality of The Colorado Ballet’s clever interpretation and deep talent. I enjoyed the small details of staging, like the harried mother who appreciates a champagne flute (or three) and the nuances of Clara and Fritz’s sibling fight over her new Nutcracker doll. My teenaged daughter caught these little moments, too, and more than once the audience broke out into appreciative laughter. They aren’t afraid to interpret the ballet with knowing winks at pop culture, which keeps it infinitely fresh. I guarantee you’ve never seen a Mother Ginger like The Colorado Ballet’s. Even the Mouse King’s death was entertaining. Without giving anything away, he tries everything to stay alive.
The little details were tons of fun, but they’d be adrift without the strength of stellar dancing and exquisite costumes. Dana Benton brought Clara to life with the innocence and tenderness you’d expect. The Sugar Plum Fairy was danced by a very regal Maria Mosina. I thought Fritz, who was danced by Sean Omandam, was going to leap into the rafters. My teenaged daughter adored the Arabian dancers and I did, too. It was gorgeously choreographed to one of the most haunting songs in the whole Nutcracker suite. Shelby Dyer and Luis Valdes exhaled a fluid sensuality. Oh my stars. My little girl didn’t pick up on that. She marveled how strong “that guy” was.
This time of year, we are steeped in Tchaikovsky’s familiar suite—performed adeptly by The Colorado Ballet’s orchestra—which captures the majesty and whimsy of the story. The matinee audience was brimming with little girls in holiday dresses and more than once I heard a breathless little voice exclaim, “I know this song!” This makes it even more special. When you leave the theater, there’s a very good chance you’ll hear “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on the radio or piped through the mall’s corridors. I love when my kids cultural dots are connected.
“The Nutcracker” is simply a great way to introduce young children to the ballet. Connect those dots. It was my younger daughter’s first ballet and she was delighted by the whole experience—although slightly disappointed she couldn’t get up and dance, too. It has two acts, which means it’s shorter and more fast-paced than some other ballets. This lends itself to being kid-friendly. Including intermission, it clocked in under two hours, so if your children can maintain their attention during a feature-length film, “The Nutcracker” is a smart choice. Be sure to ask one of the friendly ushers for a foam booster seat. It helped my daughter see all the action. It had a Pepsi logo on it and she asked if it was stuffed with comfy, comfy Pepsi. Also, there is nothing terribly scary, so sensitive kids should be okay with the action. Herr Drosselmeyer is creepy in a genial way. The only villains in the story are the Mice army, but they are satisfyingly vanquished.
This would be the perfect year to begin or even revisit this family holiday tradition. The Colorado Ballet is offering multiple performance times between now and December 24th, including night and matinee show times. It’s a busy time of year, but with so many show times it’s easy to find a few hours to indulge your senses and pause for a few moments. Become that kiddo seeing it with fresh eyes, wondering if the snow is real.
Maybe it was?