By: Hal de Becker

 Photos by Virginia Trudeau


Nevada Ballet Theatre’s annual holiday Nutcracker was the same basic production choreographed by James Canfield, with gorgeous costumes and scenery by Sandra Woodall and Patricia Ruel respectively, and outstanding accompaniment from members of Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Jack Gaughan.  


However, with the enhanced changes it undergoes every year, including additions and even some deletions, it becomes more entertaining each season and this one, perhaps,  more so than ever.      


The Ballet was in three sections each generously supported by a sponsor: Joyce Mack, NV Energy and Marilyn Moran.


This year the production was, as always, visually spectacular and the dancing excellent.  Performance time was a viewer-friendly two hours, the result of tight, concentrated pacing in the party scene, seamless scenic transitions and improvements in staging and choreography.  


The exposed interior of the five-level townhouse looked especially fresh and colorful.  Its former tendency to over-dominate the stage was controlled by Peter Jakubowski’s   lighting that placed greater focus on the performers. His modulations of color and illumination were sensitive to the mood and nature of all the production’s dances.  


Throughout the ballet, the action, whether dance or pantomime, was skillfully and energetically addressed by adults and children alike. 


Emma McGirr portrayed Clara with convincing childlike demeanor and was securely partnered by Benjamin Tucker as the Nutcracker.


In the pivotal part of Drosselmeyer, who magically appears at key moments in Clara’s and Nutcracker’s Fairyland adventure, Steven Goforth made the most of a dry role.  In most versions Drosselmeyer  is a mysterious and fascinating figure, but in Canfield’s he’s described as a clockmaker.


The Snow scene is, in many Nutcracker productions, the ballets’ most beautiful, and NBT’s was no exception.  Bathed in soft blue lighting, with a dazzling moon and shimmering starry snowflakes overhead it was transporting just to look at.    


Mirella Costa Neto and Sergio Alvarez, a splendidly paired couple, danced the lyrical and romantic adagio duet.  Their performance, including solo variations, was an inspiring example of the sheer beauty of ballet and a major highlight of the production.


Outstanding were the 14 Snow Maidens who at times seemed to be swept up and gliding on air.  They captured the mood and movement evoked by Tchaikovsky’s glorious music.  Betsy Lucas and Michael Caye were excellent as the two robotic dolls and Amadeus Luevanos made a lively and amusing Dancing Bear.


The Nutcracker’s battle with the rats, led by Christina Ghiardi as Queen Rat, had little girls in skirts combating full-sized, adult rats.  It was all too confusing and might have benefitted from some humor.


In one of their many charming numbers the youngsters, tots to teens, carried miniature violins and other instruments which they appeared to be playing as they danced. They sometimes romped and played but also executed challenging ballet steps reflecting the quality of the NBT Academy’s faculty.    


In Act II’s opening section, Jaime DeRocker securely danced the Sugar Plum Fairy solo with its difficult hops on one toe.  Her companions, three Spring Fairies, were danced by Caroline MacDonald, Betsy Lucas and Ghiardi all of whom acquitted themselves well.


They were joined by an ensemble of dancers in the lilting, ever-popular Waltz of the Flowers.  One never seems to tire of listening to this music.  Add NBT’s talented corps de ballet and it becomes an irresistible experience.     


In the exciting Russian dance, choreographed by Tara Foy, Jun Tanabe ‘brought the house down’ with virtuoso aerial feats.  And in the Mother Ginger segment, also by Foy, a bevy of delightful youngsters, including superbly trained acrobatic tumblers, emerged from beneath Ginger’s skirts to receive an ovation rivalling the Russian’s.


Brooke Lyness’ performance in the exotic Arabian duet was the best seen in recent seasons.  Her interpretation was appropriately seductive as reflected in the music and choreography.  The purple colored lighting also responded in kind.  She was partnered by Alvarez wearing a dazzling colored peacock feather cape.    


The Spanish quartet, under sensuous red lighting, received a high spirited performance from Rachel Thompson, Katherine Zimmerman, Robert Mulvey and Caye.  The Chinese was danced with good natured humor by Isabella Kowalski, Krista Baker and Ryan McNally. 


Following an extended but often tedious adagio for Clara and Nutcracker the ballet began   its joyous finale.  Passages from earlier dances were reprieved enabling the audience to applaud them once again and applaud they did. 


In its final moments, Clara was seen on a rocking horse, soaring high above, headed for home.  And as adult patrons and children also headed home I’m sure many did with visions of sugar plums and all the fabulous Nutcracker characters dancing in their heads.