Time really does fly during the holiday season. It’s been almost a week since opening night of Joffrey Ballet‘s annual The Nutcracker performance at the Auditorium Theatre and I can’t stop thinking about it (or get the music out of my head!). Honestly, this is not a new development. Nothing says Happy Holidays to me more than watching a good version of The Nut and, in my view, Joffrey’s is the best. Set in 1850s America, Robert Joffrey took a classic German tale and made it ours. There is so much action happening on stage that even the notoriously boring Party Scene breezes by leaving you wondering what you missed. Derrick Agnoletti as the bratty little Fritz provided comic relief for those not completely enthralled with Clara (Abigail Simon), her Godfather Drosselmeyer (Matthew Adamczyk) and her obsession with the wooden doll that happens to crack nuts. Once the clock strikes midnight, the action escalates in Clara’s dreams aided with some magic dust from Dr. Drosselmeyer. (Seriously, what is in that sparkly stuff? I’ll take two please!) Dolls coming to life, an enormous growing tree, a, epic battle, a first kiss, a beautiful snow fall and a lovely pas de deux: and that’s only Act One! The audience seemed a bit shy and lulled by the graceful snow pas danced by Victoria Jaiani and Dylan Gutierrez, but finally livened up to applaud during Agnoletti’s spirited dancing as the Snow Prince.
The excitement carried over into Act Two which had each of the divertissements getting rousing approval. Erica Lynnette Edwards was sassy in the Spanish variation, Arabian showed off Jaiani’s super flexibility, the Russian Nougats’ gravity-defying leaps (as usual) brought down the house, Elizabeth Hansen proved perfectly pristine as the lead Marzipan Shepherdess and Gerald Arpino’s choreography in Waltz of the Flowers is just as gorgeous as the famous music. The petite Yumelia Garcia as the Sugar Plum Fairy stunned the crowd (and RB!) with a spectacular balance at the end of the Grand pas that lasted at least 10 seconds! No joke, she stayed perched in first arabesque so long, she missed the next section of choreography, then hurried with her cavalier (Ogulcan Borova) downstage for the dramatic end poses all to cheers and wild applause.
On a somber note before the show, Artistic Director Ashley Wheater dedicated this season’s Nutcracker performances in honor of the city’s former First Lady, Maggie Daley, who was a huge supporter of the arts and served on Joffrey’s Women’s Board. Daley died last month after a long battle with cancer.
There are 16 performances left – get your tickets now and enjoy this holiday classic ballet.
Joffrey Ballet presents The Nutcracker through Dec 27th
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E Congress, 800.982.2787 or ticketmaster.com