Sometimes less is more. LakeCities Ballet Theatre makes a strong statement with their annual offering of The Nutcracker at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, with choreography by Kelly Kilburn Lannin, Allan Kinzie, Lindsay Coe and Fabiana Fadlala. By favoring simplicity in certain areas, they focus on their strengths. Star-studded guests (Sascha Radetsky and Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theatre) and a few stellar technicians bring enough complexity, though, to keep the production from looking too elementary.
The Lewisville Lake Symphony, under the direction of Adron Ming, once again pairs with LBT to provide one of the few live music and dance experiences in the Metroplex. Even the choral section of the snow scene is sung by a choir.
The ballet opens to the usual parade of families as they make their way to the Silberhaus domain for the yearly Christmas party. The company makes excellent use of the limited space of a high school auditorium with some of the families marching down the aisles to give the image of a long trek to the party.
The fearful Godfather Drosselmeyer (Kinzie) is the last to arrive, but bears the most exciting gifts. Puppetry and magical dolls that come to life (including a very talented Anastasia Tillman with enviable arabesques) dazzle the multitude of young guests. The old man presents a nutcracker to Clara Silberhaus (Kathleen Uchal), which Fritz (her brother) tries to steal.
With so many cast members on the stage at one time, Lannin keeps the action simple. At times it feels more like an exhibition of dances rather than movement depicting the story, but it seems to be part of the plan to keep the clutter at bay. Humor shines through at the right moments, especially with the gentlemen’s dance. Uchal demonstrates excellent control en pointe.
After the party guests leave and the family settles into bed, mystical things begin to take place. Clara is attacked by giant mice and rats, but Drosselmeyer summons her doll to life to protect her against the Mouse King (Robert Stewart) and his minions.
The humor from the party scene continues into the battle, so much so that it seems like a parody except for the notable performances of Stewart and Ruben Gerding as the Nutcracker Prince. It’s probably the funniest battle segments I’ve ever seen and one very much worth watching. Just when it seems like the good guys are losing, Clara distracts the Mouse King long enough for the Prince to defeat him, and the enemy goes down in a hilariously dramatic death scene.
As the Prince takes Clara away, they encounter an array of dancing snowflakes and the Snow King (Steven Loch of Pacific Northwest Ballet) and Snow Queen (Amanda Evans). Evans handles the difficult choreography decently, except for a few bobbles, but Loch is phenomenal.
Act II opens up with angels guiding the main duo to the Kingdom of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy (Lane) and her Cavalier (Radetsky) greet them. Hearing of Clara’s bravery, the subjects of the land entertain her with various food themed dances.
None of the variations deviate too much from the traditional style, but a few stand out more than the others. The Arabian duet with Alexandria Loy and Shannon Beacham utilizes the exceptional skills of each dancer. Loy’s strong sense of balance and elegant flexibility live up to the standards required of the character, and Beacham displays the powerful strength needed to support his sultry partner.
The Russian variation features gymnast Andre Harrington performing flips and springs alongside Logan Lockhart and Sophie Van Den Handel. The stunts are pretty much the extent of his dancing, but it’s more than enough to fulfill the enormity of the music.
The grand pas de deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier is, of course, stunning. Aside from the fact that it’s the pinnacle of the ballet, how can you go wrong with such an outstanding couple? Many may remember Radetsky as Charlie from Center Stage, but Lane has had screen time herself; she played Natalie Portman’s dancing double in the psych-thriller Black Swan.
The most surprising moment comes from the Waltz of the Flowers, which (with the exception of the aforementioned duet) boasts the best of everything. Madison McKay absolutely illuminates the stage with her smile and exquisite technique. Loch once again shows us his virtuosity with turns and leaps. The flower ensemble, dressed in delicately layered Romantic tutus, fluidly glide across the stage worthy of the waltz which plays before them. Kendall Galey, Shannon Beacham, Bridget Polei and Ruben Gerding as demi-soloists beautifully compliment a polished picture of precision and artistry.
Overall, it’s a lovely evening of dance. Precision and performance issues pop up here and there, as they tend to do with this type of company, but LakeCities Ballet Theatre has some pretty bright stars on its hands.
◊ Read Cheryl Callon's essay about her history with The Nutcracker here.
◊ To see listings for more Nutcrackers, go to our listings page on TheaterJones, here. Click the large gold search box, the one with the magnifying glass, to the right of "Events & Performances" and you'll get another box with search options. In the "article category" dropdown, select "dance" and then the "search listings" button. You'll get a list of all the local upcoming dance performances, most of which, right now, is The Nutcracker. (You can also type "nutcracker" into the "performance title" box and hit the "search listings" box, or enter.)