By Kevin T. Baldwin
WORCESTER: “The Nutcracker” presented by the Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts, 2 Southbridge Street, Worcester, MA. 01608. Performances: Dec. 1 at 1:00pm and 5:00pm. Ticket Prices: $32, $38 and $44 depending on seat location. Discounts are available for members and groups of 10 or more. Please contact the box office at 877.571.SHOW (7469) for more information.
Written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Artistic Director Jennifer Agbay. Choreography by Jennifer Agbay, Jolanta Valeikaite, Ana Luisa Thompson-Konopka and Mark Harootian. Conducted by Eric Culver.
Cast Includes: Emma LeBlanc, Andy Lane, Corey Scott, Ana Thompson-Konopka, Sean Kelley, Cecelia Januszewski, Taylor Oskin, Leland Pierce, Teddy Grillo, Jay Markov, Maia Bickford-Loy, Noel DeRosa, Gabriella Celluci, Rebecca Gore, Patrick Mihm, Madeline Moyal, Danyelle Gordon, Maia Beaudry, Sean Quinn, Grace Armour, Shannon Courtney, Sophia Agbay, Corey Scott, Rachele Peria, Ashley Baszto, Telmo Moreira.
The Hanover Theatre once again presents a family favorite - the two-act ballet “The Nutcracker,” and this year, the costumes and Broadway caliber sets make it more spectacular than ever.
With its renowned score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, any staging tends to become more about the spectacle than the story and less about the plot structure. So, if some find the “plot” a bit difficult to follow, pretend you’re at a visually stunning silent movie featuring the most exceptional music ever.
Broken into five segments, with this year’s production, the audience is presented with outstanding lead dancers in each section, still preserving much of the original E.T.A. Hoffman story.
The Hanover Theatre Nutcracker Orchestra, conducted by Eric Culver, was particularly exceptional.
At a Christmas Eve celebration at the home of the Silberhaus family, Herr Drosselmeyer, played by Corey Scott, is godfather to two of the Silberhaus children and a talented toy maker who has brought with him gifts for the children. During the prologue we see Herr Drosselmeyer getting his toys ready. Scott is a strong presence in every scene he is in.
Drosselmeyer presents his godchildren, Clara (Emma LeBlanc) and Fritz (Andy Lane), with gifts of two lifelike dolls. Drosselmeyer then gives Clara a carved wooden “Nutcracker Prince” (Jay Markov) which is subsequently broken by jealous brother Fritz.
Drosselmeyer assures Clara he will try to repair the broken toy. Later that evening, Clara returns to the parlor to check on the condition of her beloved “Nutcracker Prince.” She finds it then curls up with the toy on a sofa, falling asleep and subsequently falling into a magnificent dream.
The stage is quickly transformed into a wondrous world filled with mice and rats led by a menacing Rat Queen (Gabrielle Cellluci).
Clara shrinks in size as the Christmas tree on stage grows to a towering height which, once again, is a stunning stage effect.
The Nutcracker Prince, now life-size, comes to life and leads an army of gingerbread soldiers to battle the mice and defeats the Rat Queen.
As the Nutcracker Prince leads Clara through the “Land of Snow.” Rebecca Gore as the Snow Queen and Patrick Mihm as the Snow King are a joy to watch on the stage.
The second act plays out more like a dance recital than the resolution of a two-part story. That’s not the fault of anyone in the show but rather it is en suite to the construction of the ballet itself. It is not recommended that those less familiar with the show attempt to overthink the plotline or you’ll find yourself somewhat disoriented.
Moving to the Land of Sweets, sweets from around the globe perform. The principal dancers and soloists are impressive including Maia Beaudry, Sean Quinn, Grace Armour among others, all of whom delight.
The sets are so exquisitely positioned, they occasionally take the attention away from the dancers, but then the dancers bring the attention right back again. This wonderful back and forth is also accented with articulate lighting design.
Sugar Plum Fairy Ashley Baszto and Cavalier Telmo Moreira perform a vibrant pas de deux before the ballet concludes in a grand finale.
While the entire dance ensemble should be applauded, the entire cast should also be acknowledged during curtain call and was not.
The show runs approximately two hours with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)