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The Nutcracker at Spreckels Theatre – continuing a Christmas family tradition

(SAN DIEGO) Sit back and enjoy. There are few performances that I look forward to every year and “The Nutcracker” is one of them. Granted, there are a few versions playing around San Diego, but I was most impressed by this year’s performance by City Ballet, especially by the City Ballet Orchestra (lead by Conductor John Nettles). In two acts and three scenes, The City Ballet, under the direction of Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich, magically transforms the Spreckels Theatre into Tchaikovsky’s timeless classic “The Nutcracker.”

In Act I, a Christmas party is underway at the Stahlbaums home, where Clara and the other children await their Christmas gifts. When Uncle Herr Drosselmeyer (performed by Kevin Engle – whom I would designate as the fabulous “Gay Uncle”) arrives with gifts for the children, everyone is very pleased except for Clara (Janica Smith) who waits patiently for hers. Finally, Herr Drosselmeyer pulls out the toy Nutcracker for Clara, but it is broken by her brother Fritz (Daniel Salvador – one of my favorite dancers this season) in a jealous rampage. At midnight, the Christmas tree starts to grow and Clara gets up and realizes mice are trying to grab the Nutcracker, but when she tries to stop them, they turn on her.

Suddenly, the Nutcracker (Geoff Gonzalez) comes to life, battles the mice and their King and saves Clara before turning into a very sexy and handsome Prince. Afterward, the Prince takes Clara to the fabulous Kingdom of Snow.

Overall, Act 1 is a sweet success filled with all the things that make the holiday season warm and fuzzy like snow-flakes, children dancing, and lots of hugs!

Ariana Samuelsson as the Sugar Plum Fairy took charge in Act 2 as she led the parade of dancers from various countries into a wonderful whirlwind of dance. (I have always loved the snowflakes waltz – it’s both harmonious and a break from the high energy of children in Act 1.)

I was all smiles (as were most audience members) during the Grand Pas de Deux and the stellar performance by Ariana Samuelsson and Gerardo Gil (another favorite for me this season). Of course, the Finale and Apothoesis is just a celebration of dance and spirit that puts a beam of sunshine in San Diego, even during these rainy days.

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you make the Nutcracker an annual holiday tradition for you and your friends and family because this ballet will never get old.

Performance Information:

Friday – December 18th – 7:30 pm

Saturday - December 19th - 2 pm and 7:30 pm

Sunday - December 20th - 2:00 pm

Approximate Run Time:

2 hours, 15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 - November 6, 1893)

Orchestra: City Ballet Orchestra, John Nettles, Conductor

Choreography: Elizabeth Wistrich, after Lev Ivanov, Vassily Vainonen and Rudolph Nureyev

Year Choreographed: 1995

Scenery: San Diego Opera Scenic Studios

Costume Design: David Heuvel

Lighting Design: Stephen Judson

Performance History: The first performance of the ballet was on December 18, 1892 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. City Ballet of San Diego's first performance was in 1995, and the production has become an annual holiday tradition ever since.