How do you tell if a performance is outstanding? You just need to listen to the audience. When the audience is completely silent and not moving for an entire program, you know that the show has perfectly entertained everyone.
That was the situation with this year's Nutcracker at the IWCC Arts Center last Friday night. Spellbound would best describe how the audience reacted to this engaging rendition of Te Nutcracker. Personally, having seen numerous productions over the years, I was amazed at how this year's show was fresh and different while still using the traditional music of Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker proved to possess that magical mix that makes this production definitely one of the best that I have ever seen.
As the recorded overture began, the dancers approached the stage through the audience in family groups to become part of the party. With elaborate costumes, each group approached the stage as a family unit for the annual Christmas party. For those not acquainted with ballet, this entire production is told strictly through the motions of dance. With numerous children acting through dancing, the story completely possessed the theater.
The sets were elaborate and detailed, moving smoothly and almost invisibly through their dances. The costumes were phenomenally elaborate and expressive to the individuals and the story. Added to that were the wigs and makeup which
were perfect for those with multiple roles and actually masterfully changed each person's appearance. The lighting and stage management were both outstanding as being integral parts of the production all with the purpose of telling this timeless story.
As Clara, Emma Browning excelled as an actress. She constantly stayed in character displaying realistic reactions of awe to each dream as they beautifully became part of the story. She definitely displayed maturity much beyond her years and talent that is outstanding. The North Wind singers were "ah"-some and beautifully in tune. The party children, toy soldiers, mice, little Drosselmeyers, and angels were superb in their performances.
As adult dancers, there were numerous superb performances in this outstandingly choreographed show. Denis Vezetiu as the Snow King literally "wowed" the audience through his magnificent and graceful leaps. Albert Liberatoscioli, dancing as a Russian was wonderful and enchanted the audience with his kicks. Natasha Grimm as both the Ballerina Doll and the Rat Queen showed her creativity with graceful artistry in both these roles. Erika Overturff as the Sugar Plum Fairy was enchanting. Matthew Carter and Sasha York always are wonderful in their various roles.
This particular Nutcracker was extremely well-planned and designed. Every movement appeared relaxed and natural as well as truly graceful and artistic. The planning of the costumes, wigs, make-up, sets, choreography, and the overall professional confidence easily was communicated to the audience.
My one criticism is in the storyline. If the story in named The Nutcracker, shouldn't The Nutcracker be in most of the performance?
Still, I hope to attend next year's performance by Ballet Nebraska. Knowing that they continually add more each year to make the show even better, how can they possibly top this one?
As I was walking to my vehicle after the performance, the parking lot was filled with young girls twirling as they dreamed of being the graceful and beautiful ballerinas and the adults wishing that they could move like those wonderful dancers.