Review: ‘The Nutcracker’ by Ballet West at The Kennedy Center

Ballet West’s Nutcracker, conducted by Jared Oaks, is one of the most unique productions to hit the stage this season at the Kennedy Center. Steeped in lush colors, with a gorgeous set design and costumes illuminating the beautiful music by Tchaikovsky and story and choreography by William Christensen, this is a visual feast.

The Nutcracker artists of Ballet West. Photo by Luke Isley.
The Nutcracker Artists of Ballet West. Photo by Luke Isley.

Ballet West, as the name implies, is from the West–Utah to be exact. Their location definitely influences the various Western hues used in the production.

John Wayne Cook’s gorgeous set design features layers upon layers. The first scene features beautiful falling snow as Dr. Drosselmeyer (Beau Pearson) and his assistant leave their home to attend a Christmas party. After the party, the Christmas tree grows before your very eyes. The sets ground and enhance the whole play.

Expect to be startled. Twice there are blasts from the set and a collective yelp from the audience can be heard.

David Heuvel’s costume design steals the show along with the set design. The intricacies of the costumes, from the Victorian costumes to the ballerinas’ outfits, and the colors are mesmerizing.

The traditional story of the Nutcracker is told, but the interpretation is kid-friendly and a modern-day interpretation involving levity and fun. Audiences appreciatively laugh out loud with the fun and even clap during Mother Buffoon. Highly recommend this show for children and families.

The first set places heavy emphasis on children dancing around. The second set is more adult ballet focused.

(Spoiler Alert) The hilarious over-dramatic death of the Mouse King (Trevor Naumann) is a major highlight. The various dancing vignettes are also spectacular, especially the Russian dancers (Kyle Davis and Artists of Ballet West). The suite performed by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Beckanne Sisk and Christopher Ruud) is stunning and absolutely gorgeous!

Principal Artists Beckanne Sisk and Chase O'Connell in Ballet West's The Nutcracker. Photo by Luke Isley.
Principal Artists Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell in Ballet West’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Luke Isley.

If you’re looking for a more traditional, heavily ballet focused Nutcracker, this isn’t the one. If you’re looking for a new and humorous way of viewing the Nutcracker, then this is for you.

The appreciative audience gave a standing ovation.

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Ballet West: The Nutcracker plays through December 9, 2018, in The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

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