Richardson — When Collin County Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker hits the stage, you know the season is coming to an end, and if the tinkling sounds of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” refuse to get out of your head, this might be a welcomed finish to the season. Luckily, CCBT’s rendition of the holiday ballet performed at the Charles W. Eisemann Center in Richardson is a good one to close out the year. Kirt and Linda Hathaway direct the company of budding and seasoned dancers, bringing internationally renowned guest artists to complete the bill. Audiences are treated to live music by the Plano Symphony Orchestra, directed by Hector Guzman with guest direction by Leslie B. Dunner.
The directors stick with a fairly typical Nut story. Clara Silberhaus (Sophie Ludwig) enjoys her family’s Christmas party, complete with magical moments and a very special Nutcracker doll that comes to life during her dream that night to defend her from the King Rat (Christian Williams). A journey through the Land of Snow and the Lemonade Sea (a CCBT exclusive) bring Clara and the Nutcracker Prince (Jackson Fort) to the Kingdom of Sweets, where ambassadors from various lands entertain them.
CCBT employs a smaller children’s cast for the party scene than other companies, so the pace doesn’t feel as frenetic, and the narrative comes across clearer. The young girls boast a well-rehearsed sequence during the “Nutcracker March,” and Tyler Storey hams it up as Clara’s brother Fritz. His is more of an acting role than dancing, but he stays in character even when he’s not the focus. Ludwig is technicality proficient as Clara, but is shy and lacks jubilant emotion. Another CCBT favorite is the comedic dancing bears entertaining the party guests.
Rising star Kade Cummings graduates to the role of Mayor Silberhaus for Act I, and while he’s an articulate physical actor, his youthful looks and demeanor feel awkward in the role. As Herr Drosselmeyer, Kirt Hathaway is one of the best in the DFW Nut scene, with his meticulous musicality and playful acting. The stage fills up during the battle scene, with a hoard of mice and loads of cadets. Jackson Fort proves his increasing skill, as he bounds across the stage as the Nutcracker Prince.
An immaculate snow pas de deux with Iuliia Ilina and Shea Johnson is faster-paced than most, with lots of lifts and great jumps from Johnson. The snow ensemble is pretty decent, but the dancers could utilize a more consistent performance quality.
Act II prides itself on some glorious points, but there’s an overall lack of passion throughout many of the divertissements, as compared to what the company is capable of. The dancers display a clean technical execution, but many of them lack assertion, and a sense of hesitancy among the pre-professional dancers brings the energy down a bit.
Fortunately, the bright moments overpower some of the more dull ones, and many fantastic feats of last year repeat. Stone and Ilina reprise their sultry Arabian duet, and the Mirlitons (Isabella Furrillo, Lauren huynh, Tiffany Lee, Abigail Linnabary) deliver a meticulously clean variation with laudable turns. Albert Drake proves once again that he has the best coffee grinders in the Metroplex.
Fort and Cummings dance different roles from last year, but still shine. The former pulls an impressive double-duty in Act II, since he appears as the Prince and in the Spanish segment. Cummings maneuvers through gravity-defying sissones and beats with ease as the Dew Drop Cavalier in Waltz of the Flowers and ably partners Dew Drop Fairy Lee. Maite Rodriguez and Carissa Weaver as demi-soloists perform quite admirably as well.
Cuban native and freelancer Adiarys Almeida is in high demand as a guest artist around the country, and CCBT is fortunate enough to snag her again this year. Her amazingly fast pirouettes will rock your world, and if that’s not enough, wait until she gets to triple fouette turns for the coda of the grand pas de deux. Hungarian-born Andras Ronai joins her this year with charm and capably partners her incredible technical feats, with some remarkable moments of his own.
Even with the diminished performance quality among many of the dancers, this is still one of the better choreographed Nuts. Throw in some stunning guest artists and a live orchestra, and it’s an evening well worth the wait.