Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
A production brimming with holiday joy and good cheer
|Joffrey Ballet presents|
Review by Oliver Sava
The Nutcracker follows a young girl as she’s transported to a fantasy world of living snowflakes, toys, and sweet treats, and Joffrey Ballet, annual production takes audiences on a similarly magical journey to a dream world of dance. With a lush, dramatic design and an impeccably cast ensemble, Joffrey’s Nutcracker makes it impossible to resist the holiday spirit. From the opening sequence of a Christmas party populated by children excited to receive their gifts to the final moment when Clara (Caitlin Meighan) and her godfather Dr. Drosselmeyer (an authoritative Fabrice Calmels) return to reality after her delightful dream, the production is brimming with joy and good cheer, creating a heartwarming theatrical experience perfect for the chilly season.
One of the major things that distinguishes The Nutcracker from other productions in Joffrey’s season is the sense of fun; it’s youthful and effervescent and free of drama or conflict—except for a scene where toy soldiers fight an army of armored rats. It’s very light and breezy, making it the perfect entry point to ballet for young audience members. This is a show for the kids, and as such, features an ensemble of child dancers on stage with the professionals. It brings an adorable charm to the proceedings, and the opening in particular greatly benefits from the children’s excited energy. (In a refreshing decision to make the production more inclusive, one of the youngsters is in a wheelchair in the opening sequence, showing how dance is a language that can be translated to suit the needs of the performer.)
The production really takes off in the Land of Snow, where the Snow Queen (a luminous Victoria Jaiani) and the Snow King (Temur Suluashvilli) dance in a flurry of falling snowflakes. Jaiani is an extremely emotive dancer, and every movement she makes has a strong intent. She has incredible grace and power, and transitions flawlessly from the more traditional movement of the Snow Queen to the more stylized choreography she has in the second act as one of two Coffees from Arabia. Her strong chemistry with Suluashvilli also carries over into the second act as he joins her for the Coffee duet, and the entirety of second half of the production is a thrilling showcase of gorgeous, expressive movement backed by some of the most well-known classical music ever composed (performed brilliantly by the Chicago Philharmonic, conductor Scott Speck at the baton).
Act II features a delicious cavalcade of dancing divertissements, but it’s dominated by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Jeraldine Mendoza) and the Nutcracker Prince (Dylan Gutierrez), whose Grand Pas De Deux is a stunning mix of artistry and athleticism. The pair is precise but never cold, becoming more and more engaging as they perform increasingly difficult choreography. The production builds in intensity over the course of the Grand Pas De Deux, reaching a level of exhilaration that leaves the audience breathless when Clara and her godfather depart this glorious fantasy world.
The Nutcracker continues through December 28th at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map). Tickets are $32-$134, and are available by phone (312-386-8905) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information, and a complete performance schedule at Joffrey.org/Nutcracker. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
cast (roles vary according to performance)
Fabrice Calmels (Dr. Drosselmeyer, Godfather), John Mark Giragosian (Nephew), Caitlin Meighan (Clara), Elivelton Tomazi (Fritz, Snow Prince), Temur Suluashvili (Mayor Stahlbaum, Snow King), Victoria Jaiani (Mrs. Stahlbaum, Snow Queen), Jeraldine Mendoza (Sugar Plum Fairy), Joanna Wozniak (Grandmother), Francis Kane (Grandfather), Wan Yue Qiao, Saori Yamashita (Maiden Aunts, others), Alexis Polito (Governess, Dahlia), Amber Neumann (Maids, others), Cara Marie Gary, Yoshihisa Arai, Elizabeth Hansen, Rory Hohenstein (Mechanical Dolls), Graham Maverick (Nutcracker Doll), Dylan Gutierrez (Nutcracker Prince), Matthew Adamczyk (King of Mice), James Floyd, Nat Wilson, David Turnell, Yossi Zarfati (Mice), Artur Babajanyan, Edson Barbosa, Raul Casasola, Fernando Duarte (soldiers), Mahallia Ward, Kara Zimmerman (Marzipan Shepherdesses), Anais Bueno (Iris), Dara Holmes (Carnation), Brooke Linford, (Colombine), Akari Morimatsu (Rhododendron), Christine Rocas (Pansy), Elizabeth Hansen (Rose), Erica Lynette Edwards, Anastacia Holden, Ogulcan Borova, Lucas Segovia, Aaron Smyth, Amanda Assucena, Akari Morimatsu, Guillaume Basso, Alberto Velazquez, Derrick Agnoletti, Jacqueline Moscicke
Ella Almer, Madelenne Arredondo, Christian Ayala, Isabella Boyd, Cecelia Buday, Emily Byrd, Loren Chang, Yiannis Ekonomou, Phoebe Elliott, Allegra Giussani, Marisa Gracias, Nebiat Haileslassie, KJ Jacoby, Evelyn Rose Labus, Said Landes, Emma Lookatch, Jack McCormick, Sharonda McNickles, Luella Nandra, Calla Norsman, Mikaela Parisien, Layla Porter, Jaylinne Ramirez, Kirstan Richardson, Drayona Rollins, Zoe Russo, Nora Ryan, Dylan Sengpiel, Viviana Smith, Charlotte Westman, Elizabeth Amones, Grace Kelly Boyd, Madison Christopher, Carol Dilts, Abigail Dudich, Yiannis Ekonomou, Kathryn Hamilton, Riqui Hernandez, Gillian Megan Kwan, Matilde Montalbano, Emma Morley, Viola Pantuso, Emma Rader, Mia Rehwaldt, Sabrina Santoro, Sofia Corrales, Hannah T. DeWilde, Ekaterina Dubravin, Sidney Justus, Kelsey Lewis, Madeline Sanford, Corrin L. Smith, Kate Suvari, Daniella Maia Braun, Nicole M. Conradi, Lily Dahlborn, Julianna Dudich, Ksenia Filipovich, Hannah Fritsch, Jane M. Georgas, Madison Greenwald, Samantha Irwin, Allison Lemmon, Natalie Liliensiek, Gabriella LoBianco, Uma Lynch, Emma March, Amber McHerron, Cara Scarlett Merkle, Camille Nichols, Alexandria Pross, Serena Reyes, Emily Riccio, Elizabeth Savin, Samantha Stippich, Tabitha Surin, Mary Grace Whittemore, Aerin Sofia Abad, Isabella Maia Apezzato, Betsy Finley, Loyan Ebba Gould, Iris Henley, Brenna Labus, Jessica Lancaster, Dalya Lessem Elnecave, Mabel Lopez, Maiah Lopez, Alexis Marasco, Mia Moore, Lola Prisco, Ayvah Rodriguez, Margarita Tsyganova, Abigail Uloswceh, Lily Budny, Sofia Fresco Burciaga, Danielle Chisko, Mackenzie Christopher, Amani Flener, Lily Freebery, Ahnya Harth, Claire Hoepfner, Keiara Keith, Karis Kelly, Natasha Kozal, Eden Magana, Sofia Mark, Moriah Mesa, Lauren Milanak, Tatum Norris, Payton Peebles, Heidi Pikul Enger, Rachel Pogany, Allyson Powell, Mari Angelina S. Ramos, Kendall Scott, Gianna Trinity Sherman, Mia Soderquist Hansen
behind the scenes
Robert Joffrey (choreographer, director), Gerald Arpino (additional choreography), Scott Speck (conductor), Oliver Smith (set design), Kermit Love (puppet design), Jake Mehler (lighting design), Thomas Skelton (original lighting), Katie Kirwan (children’s ballet master), Michael Smith (asst. children’s ballet master), Ashley Wheater (artistic director), Greg Cameron (executive director), Cheryl Mann, Herbert Migdoll (photos)