Dear Adron Ming and the musicians of the Lewisville Lake Symphony:
Every year at Nutcracker time, the dance writers at TheaterJones attempt to convey our deepest appreciation for your contributions to LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s annual Nutcracker performance. Live music does more than enhance a dance performance, it changes its DNA. This was ever so apparent over Thanksgiving weekend, as LBT performed sans symphony at Lake Dallas High School.
We know it’s not their fault you couldn’t join them. Venue issues forced artistic director Kelly Lannin and her team to scramble for a new place to stage their show, one of the best in the Metroplex, and although we’re grateful to LDHS for accommodating them at short notice, the venue doesn’t include a place for your orchestra and the live choir that accompanies the snow scene.
But you would’ve been so proud of your ballet family. Despite having to dance to—gasp!—canned music, they delivered one of the best performances I’ve seen from them. Dancing without you was a major setback, but they weren’t going to let that dampen the production.
Even as the opening notes of the overture squeaked out of scratchy speakers from overhead, they kept beaming smiles on their faces as they eagerly came down the aisles, on their way to the annual Silberhaus Christmas party. And although Herr Drosselmeyer (special guest Kenn Wells) wasn’t able to ask you all for directions to the party and almost fall into the orchestra pit in the process, audience members were able to help him out.
The dazzling party scene felt a little more spacious on the Lake Dallas stage, and the jewel-toned costumes added their usual brilliant pop to the picture. Chuck Denton as Mayor Silberhaus seems to ham up his role each time he performs it, and he was especially sprightly this year. All the parents, children, and household staff delivered their roles with clarity and excitement, with the dancing segments especially well-rehearsed.
Your beloved Clara (Morgan Holloway) displayed a lovely ease with her movement and difficult choreography, and you would’ve laughed at Fritz’s antics, wonderfully acted by Josiah Beacham. Ashton Bradley as the Cadet Doll performed a remarkable allegro.
I’m so sad that you had to miss the best part of LBT’s Nut, the battle scene. Robert Stewart commanded the stage as the Mouse King, when he blazed onto the stage in his chariot, a cheese-shaped, “Grease Lightning”-style carriage. Just as exciting, however, was the young Trevin Ralphs as the Nutcracker Prince. You remember him as last year’s Fritz, but my, how that young man has grown in his artistry. A mere seventh-grader and member of LBT 2, he demonstrates a deliberate and focused effort on the quality of his dancing, with an exceptional display of turns in second.
You’ve seen Shannon Beacham quite a few times, as he’s on the artistic staff and choreographed the Spanish segment, but this year his whole family joined him on stage. He partnered his wife Christa for the snow duet. Stately and controlled, although hesitant at times, the two proved to be a regal pair on stage. Their three children had roles in the ballet, as well.
Carly Greene has been dancing her way up the Nutcracker ranks, and this year she’s a brilliant Snow demi-soloist and Dew Drop Fairy. Fortunately, she’s only a junior, so you’ll still get to see her on stage next year. Joined by fellow demi-soloists Lauren Hunter, Mikaela Seale, and Arika Shio and a well-rehearsed Snow ensemble, they cleverly maneuvered through the brisk choreography by assistant director Nancy Loch.
Act II brought two of the best Nutcracker guest artists the Metroplex has seen in the last several years. Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theatre (fresh off her recent promotion to principal dancer) returned as the Sugar Plum Fairy with New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht as her Cavalier. As musicians in the pit, I know you might not get to see much of the action, but hopefully in the last few years you’ve beheld the wonder of these two on stage. Ulbricht delivered his gravity-defying sissones with such ease, and Lane is simply marvelous in everything she performs. Her Sugar Plum variation this year is from Alexei Ratmansky’s most recent Nutcracker, and it’s an intriguing departure from the usual choreography.
But as you well know, they’re not the only ones in Act II, which contained several standout performances. Michelle Lawyer and Nathan Bowen danced a vivacious and precise Spanish duet, and Seale equally matched Beacham’s suspenseful delivery as the Arabian Coffee. A young Nick Sciandra joined the Russian team this year, and while his acrobatics were pretty solid, it’ll take a little time for him to dig into the performance side of the role.
Adrian Aguirre partnered Julie Fenske with ease and grace as the Marzipan couple, and Sunday afternoon’s Mother Ginger segment featured a cameo with Jaret Reddick of the rock band Bowling for Soup.
Your presence, however, was mostly missed during “Waltz of the Flowers,” as the grand number takes on a life of its own when played live. The flower ensemble danced it with a joyful precision, and although the demi-soloist segments saw some rough timing, there were a few bright spots. Greene’s Dew Drop debut simply stunned, and Ballet Frontier’s very own Chung-Lin Tseng dropped by as her partner with impressive results.
I don’t know whether this unexpected vacation from Tchaikovsky’s score proved a welcome respite or created a lonely hole in your Thanksgiving weekend. Fingers crossed that it’s one-time occurrence. Because after this experience, I think the audience, artistic staff, dancers, and myself agree that your importance cannot be overstated.
See you next year!
Your friendly neighborhood dance critic
» LakeCities Ballet Theatre will also perform its wacky The Nutty Nutcracker on Dec. 16 at the MCL Grand Theatre in Lewisville. Get tickets here.