The ballet “The Nutcracker” has become an annual holiday tradition for families and friends alike across the country, and the beautiful production, performed by the Spokane Symphony and Santa Barbara, California-based State Street Ballet, at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox is an absolute delight.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” is the story of young Clara, who receives a nutcracker for Christmas from her godfather, the magical toy-maker Drosselmeyer, during a party at Clara’s home on Christmas Eve. The nutcracker quickly becomes the favorite of all the children, including Clara’s brother Fritz, who unintentionally drops the nutcracker, breaking it.
Fortunately, Drosselmeyer fixes the nutcracker and casts a magic spell. The nutcracker comes to life at the stroke of midnight and is transformed into a prince, leading Clara on an adventure that includes a battle between rats and toy soldiers; snowflakes that dance; sugar plum fairies and queens in a magical kingdom; and entertaining and diverse global dancers.
Even though the Spokane Symphony is below deck the entire time, the musicians, under the sturdy direction of conductor Morihiko Nakahara, are heard loud and clear – in a very good way – and are an invaluable part of the production. On opening night Thursday, the conductor and symphony kept “The Nutcracker” lush, lively, energetic and magical.
This is my 12-year-old niece Anya Harmon’s fourth “Nutcracker” performance with Uncle Don, and we’re in agreement that the Spokane Symphony provided a superb soundtrack for this classic ballet, while the (unexpected) addition of a comedic character – a male dancer dressed as a granny – in the first and second acts kept 8-year-old nephew Shawn giggling nonstop.
The performers from State Street Ballet, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is led by artistic directors Rodney Gustafson and William Soleau, soared in mixing classical, contemporary and original choreography while dressed in old-fashioned and elegant costumes.
Opening night’s cast in Act 1: a charming Amara Galloway as Clara, a dashing Noam Tsivkin as Nutcracker Prince, Sergei Domrachev (Herr Drosselmeyer), Oscar Bravo (Fritz), James Folsom and Marika Kobayashi (Columbine and Harlequin Dolls), Ahna Lipchik (Rat Queen), Jack Stewart (Snow King), Deise Mendonca (Snow Queen) and local students as mice, soldiers and party scene guests.
In Act 2, the cast of local students performed as angels, the mesmerizing Kobayashi returning as Sugar Plum Fairy, Francois Llorente (Cavalier), Arianna Hartanov and Anna Carnes (Spanish), Mendonca and Stewart (in a very sexy Arabian act, with Stewart shirtless), John Christopher Piel, James Folsom and Emma Matthews (Russian), Sergei Domrachev (also the aforementioned granny) and local students as Mother Ginger and Bon Bons, and the riveting Saori Yamashita as Dewdrop Fairy.
The local students study at 13 ballet studios, with coordination in the production by Peggy Goodner Tan and Emily Grizzell. Rehearsals are at Spokane Ballet School under the direction of Sara Donally.
Ballet dancer Jessica Cochran of Chewelah, 15, was featured in last Sunday’s The Spokesman-Review, and this weekend will be her final performances in “The Nutcracker” as a student. She is performing as a Tall Angel in this production.
There are three performances of “The Nutcracker” remaining – 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday. In the lobby at the Fox, hot cocoa, chilled eggnog and sugar cookies are available for purchase, and there is a large nutcracker soldier for complimentary photo opportunities. Happy Holidays at the Fox, indeed.
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