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'Nutcracker' still magic after 50 years

Published December 10, 2005 12:10 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Those who were present when WillamChristensen's “The Nutcracker” had its Utah premiere in 1955 didn't know it was the start of a beloved tradition. But here we are - 50 years later in a more cynical age Ð yet Ballet West's version of “The Nutcracker” is still working its holiday magic.

The golden anniversary season of “The Nutcracker” opened Friday at Capitol Theatre to the usual adoring crowd.

A few changes were noticed: in honor of the anniversary, there was gold livery for Clara's wooden nutcracker and the human prince he becomes. The enchanted Christmas tree billowed and glistened with high-tech splendor as it grew and grew. The unpleasantly pink costumes Waltz of the Flowers' lead couple wore in recent years were replaced by outfits in subtler, classier pastels.

More important than such surface changes was the endearing sameness of the show, and the fact that people still line up to see it. It's a tribute to the inventiveness of Christensen, who blended vaudeville's showmanship with classical ballet's cachet.

This time, the story of a young girl's Christmas Eve dream was elevated by Christopher Ruud's dark, dramatic power as the mysterious toy-maker Dr. Drosselmeyer and Michiyo Hayashi's lighter-than-air performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Hayashi's partner, Hua Zhuang, was almost as lithe. Alas, the Snow couple, Seth Olson and Christiana Bennett, seemed rooted to earth by comparison. Alex Shaner made an adorable Clara.

Children always love the mechanical doll and dancing bear, nicely performed by Alison Harvey and John Frazer.

The costumes, the scenery, the Tchaikovsky score, the dancing - all add up to a sugar-sweet indulgence, and the holidays would be incomplete without them. Here's to another 50 years.

Review

"The Nutcracker"

l When: Friday through Dec. 31.

l Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

l Tickets: $17-$65. 801-355-ARTS or http://www.arttix.com.