Review: ‘Becoming Sugar Plum’ at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre & Academy

What a wonderful way to spend an early Sunday afternoon with Dancing Meringues, Petit Fours, Gumdrops and some bot-so-nice goblins, twirling fairies, a prince, a Fairy Queen, poison Thistle Berry Bushes, fireflies, Cotton Candy, and other high-calories, high carb, and high-sugar delights. And what a treat to watch young dancers smile and beam and dance  their hearts out in ‘an original fairytale ballet’ called Becoming Sugar Plum-a prequel to the perennial Christmas favoriteThe Nutcracker.

The Prince and the Sweets in the Land of Sweets. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Ballet Theatre.

The Prince and the Sweets in the Land of Sweets. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre & Academy.

Metropolitan Ballet Theatre has been inspiring ballet dancers for 27 years, and if you have seen these dancers on the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center’s stage at Montgomery College – you would have immediately been impressed with the professionalism, the joy, and the seriousness of these dancers as they performed Artistic Director Elizabeth Odell Catlett and Katerina Rodgaard’s physically demanding choreography. It was jaw-dropping, especially for myself and my friend who are ballet-watching novices.

The Fairies and Princess Plum traveling through the Bitter Land. Photo courtesy of Maryland Ballet Theatre.

The Fairies and Princess Plum traveling through the Bitter Land. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Ballet Theatre & Academy.

There were several words that we repeatedly said while enjoying these well-trained and well-prepared and well-rehearsed dancers: graceful, elegant, unbelievable, beautiful, stunning, unreal, adorable, and WOW!

And you can imagine the awe the young dancers felt performing side-by-side with guest artists Diane Gotzman (Petit Four, a Cotton Candy Cloud and Royal Messenger), Jennifer Hausdorfer (Fairy Queen Violet), Shady Mohammed (The evil but reforming Goblin King Dross), and the amazing and high-flying and high-kicking Dmitriy Vistoropskiy as the Prince of the Land of Sweets. What an incredible opportunity, journey, and experience for all of them.

And a special congratulations to Meredith Hwang as Princess Plum at my performance. Her dancing and acting were passionate, and graceful. Brava!

We could see the self-confidence increasing as the performance continued, especially in the youngest gumdrops and goblins. And the pride from the parents and grandparents and siblings in the audience was contagious. I am still smiling 2 days later as I am writing this.

Princess Plum pleading with Kind Dross. Photo courtesy of Maryland Ballet Theatre.

Princess Plum pleading with King Dross. Photo courtesy of Maryland Ballet Theatre & Academy.

In the program we were told that the music of the World Premiere of Becoming Sugar Plum was composed by Dr. Alexandra Bryant, and she worked with Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director Elizabeth Odell Catlett to ensure that the music and ballet’s storyline were in synch and complemented each other. And it did! The 85 minutes of music composed were written in the last month, and the music, composed for flute, violin, cello, piano, and percussion was recorded in NYC and Houston in December 2015 and January 2016, and was performed by seven exceptional musicians. I was shocked to learn that there were only seven musicians-because it sounded like there were many more playing.

And special mention to Laura Baxter and Elizabeth Odell Catlett for their work on the glorious costumes-all colors of the rainbow. I can only imagine how much time they and the volunteers who created these eye-popping costumes spent. And Set Designers Ryan Catlett and-take a guess-Elizabeth Odell Catlett (the One-Woman Band) had some beautiful backdrops shimmering with sweets with a cherry on top! Lynn Joslin provided the lighting which made everyone glisten and bask in the glow of her fine work. There is no specific person credited with the crystal clear sound and the non-over-amplified sound but whoever you are-take a bow!

The Fairies and Princess Plum in Fairyland. Photo by Maryland Ballet Theatre.

The Fairies and Princess Plum in Fairyland. Photo by Metropolitan Ballet Theatre & Academy.

I have seen other new works and the classics performed where the story was overwhelmed by the choreography, and here, I am happy to say, there was a perfect balance between the story and the choreography. Both were in perfect harmony. I didn’t have to look in my program once to figure out what was happening, so thank you Director Elizabeth and Assistant Director Katerina Rodgaard for your fine staging that allowed the ‘balance’ to reign.

I urge all ballet companies to produce this wonderful new work and make Becoming Sugar Plum a new holiday tradition.

And now, I want to thank everyone who was on stage. You were all terrific and I wish all of you continued success:

Fairy Queen Violet: Jennifer Hausdorfer.

Goblin King Dross: Shady Mohammed.

Candy of the Land of Sweets: 

Lead Gum Drop: Elizabeth Wraback.

Gum Drops: Victoria Chai, Natalie Field, Sophia Phagava, and Samantha Stillwell.

Lead Petit Four: Genny Pelletier.

Petit Fours: Evangeline Fulton, Pardiss Kaviani, Julia Marelli, Ella Rommel, and Diane Gotzman.

Lead Meringue: Jennifer Bivin.

Meringues: Ashley Chen, Daniela Gonzalez-Flores, Elizabeth Haupt, and Angelina Santi.

Lead Lolly: Gibson Young.

Lollies: Rebecca Baxter, Annebeth Heller, Christina Liu (20 E), Layna Liu (18, 19M, 19E, 20M), and Kailey Williams.

Prince of the Land of Sweets: Dmitriy Vistoropskiy.

Shadows, the Bitter Creatures: Alexandra Angelos, Bianca Cala, Anna Claire Edhegard, Katie Grow, Sophie Heberlein, Christina Liu, Grace McAdams, Rachel Owens, Amanda Slud, and Ilaria Strucker.

Reverie, Dream Fairy: Sarah Danaceau (18, 19E, 20M, 20E), and Meredith Hwang (19M).

Cotton Candy Clouds: Ashley Chen, Daniela Gonzales-Flores, Elizabeth Haupt, Annabeth Heller, Pardiss Kaviani, Julia Marelli, Ella Rommel or Diana Gotzman, and Angelina Santi.

Viridescent, Blossom Fairy: Shreeya Chowdhury.

Periwinkles: Meredith Abramson, Mollybeth Green, Anna McAdams, Nicole O’Keefe, Anna Ross, Isabella Rodgaard, Liliana Swick, and Chloe Thompson.

Aria, Song Fairy: Emily McKiernan.

Hummingbirds: Summer Allen, Elena Bazala Kim, Rachel Carreras, Claire Gotzman, Hillary Malik, Mia Mozgovaya, Sydney Pierce, and Julie Shalgian.

Maryn, Water Fairy: Abigail Coakley.

Dolphins: Adriana Carrillo, Katherine Gowarty, Katharine O’Mahoney, Veronica Smith, and Melissa Szwed.

Ember, Fire Fairy: Abigail Coakley.

Teensie Weensie Fireflies: Sarah Brandt, Lily Drennon, Ashley Gray, Olivia Holt, Hope Miers, Bianca Romano, Ehina Srivastava, Kylie Wilbur, and Lourdes Wyatt.

Poison Thistle Berries: Cynthia Chen, Madalyn Fecko, Ava Garzan, Merril Heitz, Colette Kaufman, Madeleine Kiansek, Keira McBride, LeAnn Metzger, Shelby Rose Wilson, and Stella Yang.

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Becoming Sugar Plum played from March 18-20, 2016 at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre performing at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center – 52 Manakee Street, in Rockville, MD. For more  information on Metropolitan Ballet  Theatre, go to their website.

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