Flower Mound — LakeCities Ballet Theatre is back on familiar ground this year. After a last-minute venue change in 2017 forced the company to look elsewhere for their annual The Nutcracker, the one they did find didn’t have room for their collaborators Lewisville Lake Symphony. Both organizations return to Marcus High School, and it’s Nut No. 35 for the company and their 25th time with the Symphony, directed by Maestro Adron Ming. The musicians are a welcomed sight, and although the brass section got a little heavy and overpowering at times, overall the importance of their presence cannot be overstated.
In addition to being the only Metroplex Nut that features the full orchestration of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, LBT offers a few other highlights that make its production unique. First is the opening of the party scene, where children and adults enter through the audience with arms full of presents and holiday cheer. A particularly stubborn young boy and his exasperated father always garner laughs and applause.
They all arrive at the Silberhaus home for a grand annual Christmas party. Chuck Denton reprises his role as Mayor Silberhaus, and judging from the slight nuances in delivery from year to year (which only get better), it’s likely his favorite time of year. The children Clara (Ally Wren) and Fritz (Josiah Beacham) eagerly await their friends to arrive. Wren and Beacham equally stand out with their acting and technical skills.
Like many other productions in the area, the party scene is a time for the younger dancers to shine with simple but clean dances, presentational in form. Parents mix and mingle, pass out toys, and try to control the chaos, but the party takes a special turn when Herr Drosselmeyer (the subtle but humorous Kenn Wells) brings his magical bag of tricks. Among them are a ballerina doll, cleverly danced by Olivia Davis, and the cadet (Jonathan Armstrong).
Clara’s gift of a nutcracker doll sparks a jealous Fritz to steal and break it, but Drosselmeyer repairs it by party’s end. Later that night, an onslaught of mice prompt a battle between the Nutcracker Prince (Armstrong) and the Mouse King (Robert Stewart in another unique highlight of the production). Armstrong needs a little more time to exude confidence in his performance, but his allegros are impressive. After he defeats his foe, he leads Clara through the Land of Snow.
Senior Carly Greene continues her climb up the Nutcracker hierarchy, reaching the coveted Snow Queen role, partnered by guest Marlen Alimanov. Her flawless chaines and regal presentation beautifully match Alimanov’s stately performance. The snow ensemble delivers an admirable segment with nice precision and smiles all around.
The Land of Snow is only a stop on their way to the Kingdom of Sweets, where ambassadors from around the world entertain them. In companies such as these, performers frequently rotate roles year to year, and Lannin and crew meticulously cast dancers in places to shine as well as grow. Thus, it’s always delightfully curious to see which segments and individuals stand out each year.
A clean, precise Spanish divertissement has Greene in the lead with four other equally strong performers. Nick Sciandra returns as the Russian Baba for his gymnastics stunts, but it’s his companions Jennifer Kolar and Page Smither that really steal the show with their leaps and synchronized fouetté turns.
The latter step is obviously a skill heavily refined at the Ballet Conservatory (LBT’s training ground), as some of the Polichinelles later exhibit a strong fouetté game, as well. Another highlight of that segment is the traditional guest casting for Madame Bonbonaire, and this year has them saluting first responders. Mike Westphal of Dallas Police Department dons the wig on Saturday night, while Shane Steinbach of Lewisville Fire Department gets the honor for the Sunday matinee.
A commendable “Waltz of the Flowers” variation includes Mikaela Seale and Shannon Beacham as the Dew Drop couple. They maneuver nicely through partnering and overall simply shine.
DFW audiences are fortunate enough to see American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane grace the stage twice in 2018. She’s become a regular for the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and she frequently returns for their other full-length ballets. An exquisite adagio with New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht (another repeat guest) features spotless partnering and immaculate pirouettes. Ulbricht’s tours and leaps are always worth the trip.
Another solid performance, back at Marcus with the musicians. All is well again.
» LakeCities Ballet Theatre will also perform The Nutcracker at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, at Waxachachie High School Performing Arts Center. More info here.