A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Dec 19, 2011
A Holiday Surprise
When it comes to celebrating the holidays, there are two types of people: those who love The Nutcracker and those who don’t. A proud member of the first camp, I looked forward to Madison Ballet’s annual production.
General manager Gretchen Bourg had told me a few months back that not only would this show mark the company’s thirtieth anniversary; it would also boast the largest cast to date, with nearly two hundred dancers!
Yet the highlight of this Nutcracker is that it melds a traditional fairy tale with artistic director W. Earle Smith’s dynamic, athletic choreography, which he debuted back in 2004.
Smith’s dancers are strong and confident, parlaying the familiar story with an energy and sense of joy I hadn't anticipated and that make the ballet feel almost brand new. Take the Snowflakes of Act I: In their gorgeously frothy white costumes, the dancers are feminine and, particularly as they move as a group, also quite powerful.
Another strong performer, Marguerite Luksik as Clara is a pleasure to watch, both on her own and when she dances with Brian Roethlisberger, who plays the Nutcracker. I'm glad Smith chose Clara to explore the enchanted lands as an adult who could actively participate in her new settings, rather than a young girl observing from the edges of the stage.
The production also beautifully showcases Madison Ballet’s fine company dancers; my only wish is that I’d like to see even more of them! It’s fun to watch the children cast in the show—and they inevitably make for some pretty cute moments—but I prefer witnessing what the company dancers bring to each familiar role, especially after the opening party scene.
Yet that party setting and the following Snowflake Land and enchanted garden are all lushly decorated—a visual match to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Together with dancers young and old alike, they create a true fairy tale, one worthy of watching again and again.
Whether The Nutcracker ranks among your holiday traditions or you’ve never seen it, treat yourself Madison Ballet’s production. It runs this Friday and Saturday and next Monday at Overture Center. For more information, visit madisonballet.org.
Photo courtesy of Madison Ballet.