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Theatre review: ‘The Nutcracker’ filled with humor, dazzling performances

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The Nutcracker,' performed annually by BalletMet Columbus, makes its return to Columbus stage Friday. Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Zmuda

The Nutcracker,’ performed annually by BalletMet Columbus, makes its return to Columbus stage Friday.
Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Zmuda

The weather outside was not too frightful, but opening night of BalletMet Columbus’ “The Nutcracker” turned out to be quite delightful.

This was my first time seeing the holiday classic performed on stage instead of through a TV screen or in a movie theater, so the magic of the experience stayed with me the entire night.

The first act opened with an adorable display of young children skidding across an icy sidewalk as Clara and her brother Fritz go to greet their godfather Herr Drosselmeyer, who always has a magic trick up his sleeve.

Because this is a ballet performance, no dialogue is spoken between any of the characters, so it was important that their body language spoke up for them. The dancers did an impeccable job of communicating the emotions of their respective roles.

Narration injected throughout the performance helped the audience stay on track with what was happening on stage, and in place of dialogue was the booming music presented by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Along with the dancers’ interactions, the music also helped express the emotions and atmosphere of each scene.

Along with Drosselmeyer, you meet the rest of Clara’s family as they reunite for the holidays and exchange presents. The interactions between Clara and Fritz, as well as a grandmother with a rather active rear end, will be sources of laughter throughout the first half of the show.

Something that surprised me during the performance was how short the confrontation between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker seemed to be. It was very fast-paced with the armies of both sides filling up the stage with plenty of movement and action. I expected the standoff to be a little longer, but it turned out that the battle was only a small section in Clara’s dream.

After the Nutcracker’s victory, in which Clara played a huge part, the doll turns into a Prince and whisks Clara away to a snowy wonderland. At this point, young Clara is replaced by dream Clara, setting the stage for the second act.

The transformation from reality to Clara’s dream was most notable through the dancers’ costumes. The costumes at the end of the first act and all through the second were whimsical, from angels to fairies to gypsies— and a stark contrast to the realistic costumes of the party scene that reflected the clothing styles of the Victorian era.

In the second act, the dances became more extravagant as the Prince and Clara arrive in the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Sugar Plum Fairy arranges a grand celebration in Clara’s honor for saving the Prince.

The child dancers were just as mesmerizing to watch as the adults, which highlights the achievements of the instructors at the BalletMet Dance Academy. The group performances were a joy to watch, though the stage did feel a bit busy at times. I was never sure where to focus because I didn’t want to miss anything.

That is why the solo and duet performances were, understandably, my favorite. I could not keep my eyes off of one character that I can only describe as the prima ballerina. Her solos and duets were quite a sight to behold, and though I am not a dance expert, her performance was nearly flawless.

As much as I enjoyed the dancing of the second act, I did catch myself wondering just how long it was meant to last. It was nonstop dancing once the curtain lifted after intermission, and the narration did not happen as often as it did in the first half.

Even though it seemed to drag towards the end, “The Nutcracker” was a wonderful performance whose dancers left me dazzled. With less than a two-hour running time, it is an ideal activity to do with friends and family during the holiday season.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at the Ohio Theatre through Dec. 27, with varying show times at 1, 2, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

“A Nutty Nutcracker,” BalletMet’s parody of the holiday classic, is set to have a one-night only performance Dec. 27 at 7:30 p.m. with local celebrities set to make an appearance.

Tickets for both shows can be purchased through Ticketmaster.

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