Richardson — The sounds of strings, woodwinds, and horns warming up in the orchestra pit of the Eisemann Center in Richardson, with faintly recognizable holiday Tchaikovsky notes drifting through the house, can mean only one thing. Collin County Ballet Theatre is back with their annual production of The Nutcracker, led by artistic directors Kirt and Linda Hathaway. The Plano Symphony Orchestra, with guest conductor Geoffrey Robson, returns for CCBT’s Richardson run of the holiday classic and gives a remarkably pleasing performance throughout the entire ballet.
The ballet begins with a party. Mayor Silberhaus (Ethan Brittain) and Frau Silberhaus (Lauren Gonzales) are throwing their annual Christmas shindig and none could be happier than their two children, Clara and Fritz (Lauren Utley and Benson Rollins, respectively). Presents, food, and drink bring the festivities to a high point, but they pale in comparison to the wonders of Drosselmeyer (Kirt Hathaway). Magic tricks, dolls that come to life, and dancing bears (a CCBT exclusive) thrill the children, but the greatest gift is the nutcracker doll presented to Clara.
The magic continues after the party, as mice and soldiers battle it out under the Christmas tree, headed up by the King Rat (Gonzales) and the Nutcracker Prince (Noah Klarck). Clara helps her hero defeat the enemy, then they travel through a wintery wonderland and the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of the Sweets, where dancers of the court entertain them.
The spacious stage of the Hill Performance Hall allows for a fairly clear party scene, and several performers demonstrate excellent commitment to their roles, including a few of the parents. The young Rollins displays great acting skills and an explosive movement quality, both of which will only grow stronger as he refines his craft. Utley charms as Clara.
For the battle scene, Gonzales’ ostentatious Rat King performance garners deserved chuckles, while the excitement only grows with Klarck’s solid execution as the Prince. The snow ensemble fares decently with their choreography. Natalie Kischuk and Shea Johnson as the Snow Queen and King maneuver through some demanding partnering, with mostly splendid results, save a few bobbles.
A large ensemble for the Lemonade Sea provides a pleasing aesthetic for Act II’s opening, with Sophie Ludwig delivering an admirable and graceful Lemonade Sea Queen performance. A lively Spanish duet opens the divertissements, followed by the Arabian. In this sumptuous duet, Mackenzie Fey and newcomer Floyd McLean, Jr. demonstrate fluid partnering and dynamic technical skills, while maintaining the spellbinding control inherent to the segment.
An exciting Chinese tea trio presents satisfying precision, which continues with the Mirliton quartet. Albert Drake’s impeccable and explosive Russian Trepak variation summons well-deserved thunderous applause, then Micki Saba leads a flock of youngsters as Mother Ginger. Ansley Howard and Noah Klarck partner for a stunning Dew Drop couple in “Waltz of the Flowers”, and flower fairies Lauren Jones and Sophie Ludwig demonstrate impressive precision as demi-soloists.
To close out the overall stellar performance, Cuban ballet stars Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro present one of the season’s best grand pas de deuxs, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Almeida’s never-ending pirouettes, dazzling smile, and spicy precision make her a sought-after guest artist around the world. Domitro demonstrates no less magnificence with his glowing performance quality, incredible switch tour jetés, and effortless allegro.