Review: Nashville’s Nutcracker

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Nashville Ballet's magical holiday tradition continues in its eighth year, running through Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Nashville Ballet presents:
Nashville’s Nutcracker (Dec. 5 – 23; All ages)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • nashvilleballet.com
Remaining Showtimes:
     Saturday, Dec. 12 at 2 & 7 p.m.
     Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.
     Friday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m.
     Saturday, Dec. 19 at 2 & 7 p.m.
     Sunday, Dec. 20 at 2 & 7 p.m.
     Dec. 21 – 23 at 1 p.m.
Tickets: $28 – $89

Several performing arts companies in Middle Tennessee offer annual holiday traditions, and Nashville Ballet is at the top of the list with its bright, bold, vibrant production of Nashville’s Nutcracker. It’s a festive way to get into the Christmas spirit if you’re not already in it … and if you are, prepare to be given a lot more oomph as the production continues to celebrate the unparalleled magic, wonder and beauty of the season.

Eight years ago, under the direction of Artistic Director Paul Vasterling, Nashville Ballet unveiled this current version of the Nutcracker story with great fanfare. To this day, Vasterling’s vision remains imaginative and fun with the story rooted in local history as it’s set within Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897. Both repeat audiences and newcomers will enjoy the locality of scenes taking place in Centennial Park, Shelby Bottoms and hints of the Belle Meade Mansion (serving as Clara’s home during the grand party in Act I) where an Andrew Jackson doll is part of the festivities.

Kids will be hooked early on thanks to Christopher Butler’s commanding performance as Clara’s Uncle Drosselmeyer who dazzles young and old alike with slight-of-hand tricks and magical illusions.

A big part of the charm of Nashville’s Nutcracker is the inclusion of a lot of children on stage, both students from the School of Nashville Ballet as well as kids from the community who landed roles through an open audition process earlier this fall. Monica Bashir brings a joyful presence to the stage as Clara, and Ryan Layfield is great as Clara’s pesky little brother Fritz. Other members of the youth cast serve as guests at the party and mice during Act I’s exciting Battle Scene. Youngsters also fill roles during the show as garden fairies, Madame Bonbonniere’s Bon Bons and adorable little lambs (including the cute black sheep) during the Swiss Shepherd/Shepherdess sequence in Act II.

One of the most majestic moments of Nashville’s Nutcracker is the Snow Scene at the end of Act I. Christopher Stuart as the Snow King and Sarah Cordia as the Snow Queen are perfectly paired as they deliver a powerful ethereal magic to the stage beckoning the falling snow onto a large cast of graceful snowflake characters. This scene is big on the “WOW” factor among children, evident by the “oohs” and “aahs” coming from the abundance of youngsters in the audience.

Shigeru Yaji’s magnificent set design brings vibrant color to Act II, which opens in the Parthenon Garden with Mollie Sansone (Dew Drop Fairy) and Brett Sjoblom (Nutcracker Prince) setting a festive tone before Clara is whisked away to the magical Kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Kayla Rowser delivers a beautiful, flawless performance. Rowser’s pointe technique is impeccable, and she is certainly a huge inspiration to many young ballerina hopefuls.

There are many festive moments in the second act where lots of talent takes the spotlight by way of Russian, Spanish and Chinese dance sequences. The cast of children adorning the stage throughout Act II brings a great bit of fun energy to the show.

In addition to Yaji’s scenic design, Campbell Baird’s costuming greatly enhances the delightful visual appeal to Nashville’s Nutcracker. The Nashville Symphony provides the lovely musical accompaniment with Tchaikovsky’s timeless score.

For many local families, Nashville’s Nutcracker is an annual holiday tradition, and it’s certainly a fabulous way to spend time with your loved ones celebrating the magic of the Christmas season!

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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