Richardson — ‘Tis the season to be nutty, but all good things must come to an end. Collin County Ballet Theatre delivers the season’s last The Nutcracker with the help of the Plano Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hector Guzman. Artistic directors Kirt and Linda Hathaway founded the company in 2001 and stage the only Nut with live music in north Dallas, one of two in North Texas.
The action of the party scene takes a little while to get started and the set is somewhat sparse compared to other productions, but the staging and execution make up for it. Clara Silberhaus (Abigail Linnabary) and her family entertain several families for their annual Christmas party. Michael Stone shows of his acting chops as Mayor Silberhaus, and it’s a welcome to change to see him so animated. Clara’s friends perform a delightfully precise ensemble with clean pirouettes, and Linnabery exhibits gorgeous arabesques and lovely musicality.
Her uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer (Kirt Hathaway), unexpectedly crashes the party with fantastic presents and surprises for the children, including dancing bears and life-size dolls. Kade Cummings, a mere sophomore at Booker T., surprises with his sharp technical skills as the Soldier Doll. Always mischievous, Fritz Silberhaus (Jackson Fort) engages in a multitude of rambunctious antics, including breaking Clara’s new Nutcracker doll. The party ends with a sleepy Clara cherishing her new present.
A plethora of mice invade the home after midnight, but an army of soldiers counters them. Children of all ages participate in this crowded scene, and it gives the audience plenty of “aww” moments as the tiniest ones enter and exit the stage. The final battle between the Nutcracker Prince (Cummings) and the King Rat (Fort) displays great exuberance, as a proper fight scene should. Fort acts out a hilariously melodramatic death scene as he’s defeated.
The Prince leads Clara through the Land of Snow, where the Snow King (Stone) and Queen (Iuliia Ilina) flow through an exquisite duet. Ilina’s role is not finished after their variation, however, as with most Nutcrackers. In an interesting twist, she continues her solos throughout the rest of the snow scene, when normally the snow corps takes over. Clad in shimmering silver and white, the snow ensemble produces some lovely designs, with a standout quartet.
Another tweak to Clara’s journey to the Kingdom of Sweets takes her through the Lemonade Sea. Many Nut productions make choreographic choices that simply serve to add dancers into the ballet, and this is definitely one of them. The section, however, creates an enchanting picture and allows more dancers to show off their abilities, including a fantastic Madisyn Mullett as the Lemonade Sea Queen.
Once in the Kingdom of Sweets, Clara and her Prince relive the battle and are rewarded for bravery by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Adiarys Almeida) with a series of entertaining dances by the inhabitants of the Kingdom.
A vivacious and athletic Spanish variation opens the divertissements, but it’s the Arabian that takes the breath away. Ilina proves that she’s suited for any part, as she transitions seamlessly from the pristine lightness of the Snow Queen to the silkiness of the Arabian lady. Stone is in his element as her partner, and together they create a flawless duet.
Jackson shines in the Chinese segment, and the Mirliton quartet produces excellent fouettes and an overall meticulous and charming dance. Albert Drake bounces around the stage as the Russian Trepak and delivers the best coffee grinders I’ve seen all season. In another “aww” moment, Mother Ginger (Micki Saba) and her gaggle of bakers and gingerbreads dash about the stage with antics from the youngest dancers that will make any heart melt.
The “Waltz of the Flowers” presents wonderful visuals with a multitude of colors and a superb Dewdrop fairy (Sarah Smith). Some timing issues crop up, but lovely leaps and turns form a splendid section.
In the pinnacle of the performance, Almeida and Joseph Gatti as her cavalier surpass all expectations. The two of them produce a dramatic and luxurious adagio, and the audience bursts into applause well before the final pose hits. Gatti defys gravity in his solo, and Almeida has all the right moves in all the right places. She suspends, plays with the audience, and flutters effortlessly across the stage, all with a magical smile on her face. Stunningly fast pirouettes and double and triple fouettes blow everyone away and, combined with her other qualities, make her one of the best Sugar Plums I’ve ever seen. Words honestly don’t do this couple justice, so I hope CCBT brings them back next year so that you, too, can bask in the awesomeness.
A myriad of elements contribute to the excellency of this show, but probably the most obvious one to seasoned dance audiences is the use of live music. Although the PSO utilizes a reduced orchestration, it still provides an underlying vibrancy to the production and brings warmth to an already cheerful and wondrous show.