Grand Rapids Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ delivers heartwarming holiday magic
By Adrienne Warber
Grand Rapids Ballet delivered a special Christmas gift to West Michigan by bringing their beautiful production of “The Nutcracker” back on stage this holiday season. It is easy to understand why this production of “The Nutcracker,” developed for the Grand Rapids Ballet and the West Michigan community, is a Christmas tradition for many families. Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” captures both the magic and joy of the holiday season in a sumptuous feast of dance, music and art that delights all ages. Michigan’s only professional ballet company held eight well-attended and critically-acclaimed performances of “The Nutcracker from Dec. 10-19. Virtual tickets to see “The Nutcracker” online are still available now through January 2, 2022.
West Michigan’s Own ‘Nutcracker’
After a two-year break in live performance and a virtual season due to the pandemic, this “Nutcracker” production is particularly meaningful to both the company and the audience. The special edition of “The Nutcracker” was developed for Grand Rapids Ballet by the award-winning creative team of children’s book author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, set designer Eugene Lee and choreographer Val Caniparoli in 2014. Each year, the critically acclaimed show gets even better. Ballet Forever viewed the online version of “The Nutcracker,” which is the Dec. 10 production. This year’s “Nutcracker” is one of the best yet because of the strong cast and the Grand Rapids Ballet’s masterful production of the beloved story. The dancing, choreography, set, costumes, lighting and special effects all came together seamlessly to create a beautiful Christmas masterpiece.
Grand Rapids Ballet’s Talented Dancers
The current company dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet are very talented and “The Nutcracker” showcased every cast member’s high-quality skill in dance technique and acting. Grand Rapids Ballet School students also shared the stage with company dancers in the production, and their strong performances highlighted the excellence of a Grand Rapids Ballet School education. Grand Rapids Ballet School student Maya Olthouse danced with great technique and conveyed all the joy of young Clara Stahlbaum. The student dancers all did an amazing job dancing beside the professional company dancers throughout the show.
The audience lived the story with Clara through such vivid characters who told the story with Val Caniparoli’s beautiful and inventive choreography and their lovely technique. Yuko Horisawa (Dream Clara) and James Cunningham (Nutcracker Prince) captured the magic of the story with their lovely pas de deux. Horisawa and Cunningham danced with elegance and strong technique. Yuka Oba-Muschiana (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Josué Justiz (Cavalier) danced with masterful technique and artistry.
So many scenes are beloved in this holiday favorite, and each contribute their special magic to the story. Grand Rapids ballet dancers made every number both enjoyable and awe-inspiring in their outstanding performance. The Russian Caviar scene remains a fan favorite with the audience clapping along to the outstanding dancing by Isaac Aoki, Zach Manske and Nigel Tau. Sarah Marley gave a great performance as the Dew Drop Fairy. Attila Mosolygo was a charming Herr Drosselmeier and many parents could identify with his quest to make Christmas magical for his godchild. The Corps de Ballet made the snow scene stand out as one of the most beautifully danced numbers in the show.
.Van Allsburg’s Art and Lee’s Set Design
The enchanting set created by Grand Rapids native and The Polar Express author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg and Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee makes every scene as beautiful as a living painting. The exquisite detail in Van Allsburg’s artwork paired with Lee’s set design works with the costumes and dancing to create a beautiful Dickensian Christmas feel. The set is almost a character itself in the personality in each piece. The mice each have different expressions in the stage frame. The expressive Drosselmeier painting invites the audience into the story. The chimneys smoke and the windows are lit in the town. The Stahlbaum living room looks warm and inviting. Dream Clara and the Nutcracker Prince’s journey on the seashell boat drawn by dolphins to Marzipan Castle is a storybook painting brought to life. Van Allsburg and Lee’s set design is one of the many reasons to see Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”
Grand Rapids Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is a holiday treasure. If you didn’t get a chance to see the show on stage at DeVos Performance Hall, you can still purchase a virtual ticket to see the show online. “The Nutcracker” is available to view online through virtual access until January 2, 2022. Visit Grand Rapids Ballet’s website or call the Grand Rapids Ballet Box Office at (616) 454-4771, ext. 10.