‘The Nutcracker’ a traditional treat

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent 

   RALEIGH — Dreams of dancing sugarplums, a towering Christmas tree, and an unforgettable, magical holiday treat — that’s only a mere glimpse of the wonders of Carolina Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” being performed today through Christmas Eve at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St.
Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” “The Nutcracker” ballet portrays the magical happenings young Clara Stahlbaum (Eleanor Sanderson) experiences on Christmas Eve. The enchantment begins when her godfather, toymaker and magician Drosselmeyer (Dameon Nagel), arrives at her family’s Christmas party with his young nephew (Grant Kennedy). He entertains both the children and adults with incredible life-sized dolls and a host of magical gifts, finally presenting Clara with a handsome nutcracker. She instantly falls in love with the wooden toy, but her jealous younger brother, Fritz (Ben Jones), shatters the nutcracker, leaving her heartbroken.
Drosselmeyer patches the toy back together, and the party winds to a close. After everyone is in bed, Clara slips back under the Christmas tree, cradling her beloved nutcracker and falling sound asleep. But when the clock chimes midnight, the Stahlbaum house begins to undergo a strange transformation. Clara soon finds herself in the middle of a battle between mice and toy soldiers — and they’re all bigger than she is.
   Carolina Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is a holiday feast for the eyes, from expansive glittering scenery and gorgeous costumes to bedazzling live magic. The party and battle scenes are both exciting and visually incredible, with magic that makes you look twice, cheese-catapulting cannons, and a host of colorful characters. Eleanor Sanderson is a perfectly expressive Clara, while Grant Kennedy exudes a quiet grace as the Nutcracker Prince.
Dameon Nagel’s illusions are incredible, leaving the audience wondering just how the trick was so masterfully accomplished. However, the best the ballet has to offer begins during the Waltz of the Snowflakes. The corps de ballet gets to shine as they accompany Miles Sollars-White, the gentle yet fierce North Wind. The Land of Sweets has an array of delectable dancing to admire — sensual Arabian coffee (Randi Ostek), the athletic prowess of trickster Candy Canes (Oliver Béres, Adam Crawford Chavis, Miles Sollars-White), and the delicate grace and technicality of Ribbon Candy (Courtney Schenberger, Kathleen Black, Amanda Gerhardt).
The Waltz of the Flowers also is incredible, with the lovely but powerful Butterfly (Alyssa Pilger) gracing each beautiful bloom. The cherry on the sundae is, of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Margaret Severin-Hansen and Richard Krusch), whose ethereal pas de deux and thrilling coda take the show to soaring heights.
This ballet is definitely a treat for all ages — with Tchaikovsky’s twinkling score, incredible illusions and virtuosic dancers, ‘The Nutcracker’ is the perfect holiday tradition.
Show times are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. today through Friday and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets range from $37 to $105 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com.

Logan A. White is a home-schooled junior and a Teens & 20s writer.

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