I wanted to attend the Main Street Ballet's Nutcracker on opening night. I drove to Southbury in the fog, singing "At the Ballet" from A Chorus Line. Not surprisingly, none of the males in my family wanted to attend with me, but that didn't stop me. Nor did the fact that calling myself a dance critic is a bit of a stretch. I resolved to review the show as if it were any other theatrical performance, which in fact it was, and a very good one at that.
The Main Street Ballet has been putting on the Nutcracker for an amazing 24 years. As the daughter of the Artistic Director Sibley Morosco explained, in her family the high holiday at this time of year is the Nutcracker, and Heaven help you if you are not home for it. Due to scheduling issues, this year the rehearsal time was cut short by three weeks, but one would never have guessed that this was the case. Many volunteers were involved in producing the show, some of whom no longer have students at the school.
Before the ballet began, the Artistic Director, in full costume as Frau Silberhaus, brought the dancers playing Clara, Fritz and Herr Drosselmeyer in front of the curtain to explain the pantomime technique that would be used in the show to the younger members of the audience. Since there were a large number of siblings (many of them boys) in the audience, this was a nice touch. Then the former students of the Main Street Ballet that were in the audience were asked to stand up to be acknowledged.
The classic tale of the young girl that receives a Nutcracker from her godfather Herr Drosselmeyer (played by local attorney Randolph "Rick" Richardson II to perfection) that springs to life in her magical dream. The tallest dancer on the stage, he sported the requisite eye patch and magical look and he worked the cape he wore throughout, but especially when he helped the Christmas tree grow to great heights. Watching this father of three daughters, all of whom have studied dance since the age of three, dance with the grandmother (played by Dorothy Mandeville Morosco) was a sight to behold.
Sarah Leonard was chosen to dance the role of Clara on opening night and she gave a fine performance. Her naughty brother Fritz (who manages to break Clara's beloved toy five minutes after she receives it) was played by Nina Koobatian for this performance. The adult members of the cast in the first act included Kathy Bower (Mr. Richardson's wife and also an attorney) and Sylvia Kinal Davidowitz and Kerry Gallagher (both on staff at the school) in the great comic roles of the nanny and the maid. These last two ladies almost stole every vignette they were in.
The latter half of the first act included Emily Spina as the Mouse Queen with Emma Primini this night as the White Mouse. Many dancers changed out of their Christmas Eve Party costumes to become Soldiers and Mice; this became a pattern as the ballet progressed, as the older dancers covered multiple roles. For the Waltz of the Snowflakes, Maggie Powderly was a beautiful Snow Queen, ably assisted by lots of lovely snowflakes. The youngest wore the longer skirts, but everyone got to wear a crown. When the snow began to fall at the close of this number, the young child behind me wondered aloud if it was "magic or real."
After intermission, where sparkly cupcakes were for sale in the lobby, the scene changed to the Kingdom of Sweets, I couldn't possibly mention every featured dancer or even every scene. Suffice it to say that every dancer in the company got to dance and everyone did an excellent job. The tiniest girls were impossibly cute as sheep, angels and gingerbread cookies and each dance ended with thunderous applause. Older girls danced the lead for these budding ballerinas and gently made sure they were all where they needed to be. After their dance, wranglers brought them out to sit in the house to watch the rest of the show, until their curtain call, of course.
Some standouts among the older ballerinas were Kate Rupar as the Saturday night Marzipan Shepherdess, Anna Bower Richardson as the lead in the English Trifle, Maggie Powderly as the lead Hot Chocolate and Emily Marklen as a lovely Sugar Plum Fairy. The entire Trepak team, led by Chloe Eggert, was great and the huge production number of the Waltz of the Flowers was impressive.
The production values of this show were top notch. The sets designed by Gabrielle Nurnberger were quite lovely and the lighting by Sean Nicholl showed them off perfectly. The costumes designed by Pat Nurnberger and the Artistic Director and executed by "many, many smiling volunteers" were stunning. Ms. Nurnberger will be attending UCONN for a Master's degree in costume design. From the adorable outfits for those sheep and gingerbread cookies, to the various uniforms needed for the citizens of the Land of Sweets, to the sumptuous adult period costumes, everything was a holiday feast for the eyes. Kudos to all the seamstresses.
The difference between this and a typical dance recital (I speak from experience because yes, I did take tap and ballet as a child) was that the story of the Nutcracker holds it all together. While there was ample opportunity for every student to have a chance to shine, it was never tedious. I really enjoyed this production and it brought back memories of when I saw it at Lincoln Center as a young girl. This ballet company should be proud of a job well done. There is a matinee at 2:00 pm on Sunday, Dec. 9 at Pomperaug HS in Southbury.