The Joffrey Ballet and Cleveland Orchestra production of Nutcracker is perfect

November 30, 2012
Mark Horning


Cleveland is truly blessed this year with a plethoric collection of Nutcracker performances and themed gatherings, but by far the most magnificent of them all is the production being presented by the Joffrey Ballet and Cleveland Orchestra at the State Theatre in PlayhouseSquare.

Since the announcement months ago of these four performances, all patrons of the arts in Cleveland have been waiting expectantly. We were not to be disappointed in any way. Even before the first dance step was performed we knew we were in for a real treat. The evening began with the opening notes of the Overture as performed by the over one hundred piece Cleveland Orchestra. As the curtain went up we were delighted with a truly exceptional set, dramatic lighting and colorful costuming.

The one thing you have to remember about this production is that at any time anywhere on stage something is going on. You have to keep your eyes in constant motion to pick up all the various stories and nuances that make this particular ballet performance such a feast for the eyes and ears. From the elaborate Christmas party scene which opens the ballet to the Magical Battleground sequence to the Land of Snow which closes the first Act it is truly a magical ride for us all. This is how Tchaikovsky most definitely visualized this ballet. Everything is of the highest quality.

The second act takes us to the magical Kingdom of Sweets where solo and duet dance performances dazzle us. The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince is the purest form of ballet imaginable and Victoria Jaiani and Dylan Gutierrez dance it to absolute perfection. I am sure I was not the only one in the audience who had tears forming in their eyes as we were witnessed to physical perfection.

What followed were a variety of performances emphasizing various holiday treats such as Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Nougats, Marzipan and Ginger. This was followed by the highly anticipated Waltz of the Flowers which filled one’s heart with unbridled joy. Then, as if we could not be more entertained, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince return for the Grand Pas De Deux and our emotions once again soared to the heavens. The show closed with the Finale with all members of the cast being presented with a noble flourish and dramatic resounding final note.

What followed was thundering applause, cheering and a standing ovation that lasted until the house lights came on. These four short days will be talked about for years to come by those fortunate to witness greatness. For those who are fortunate enough to have tickets I assure you that you are in for a treat. Enjoy it to its fullest. To those unable to attend, take heart. Plans are in place for ballet to make a regular return to the Cleveland stage.

The Cast (Act One)

Dr. Drosselmeyer, Michael Smith; His Nephew (The Nutcracker Prince), Dylan Gutierrez; Clara, Katherine Minor; Fritz, Ricardo Santos; Mayor Stahlbaum, Fabrice Calmels; Mrs. Stahlbaum, Kara Zimmerman; Grandmother, Joanna Wozniak; Grandfather, Kacl Thorpe-Baker; Maiden Aunts: Yumelia Garcia & Jaime Hickey; Governess, Valerie Robin; Guests: Elizabeth Hansen, Dara Holmes, Jeraldine Mendoza, Abigail Simon, Mahallia Ward, Jenny Winton, Mathew Adamczyk, Yoshihisa Arai, Guillaume Basso, Lucas Segovia, Temur Suluashvili, Alberto Velazquez, Servents: Raul Casasola & Shane Urton; Maids: Jacqueline Moscicke & Amber Neumann; Mechanical Dolls: Columbine-Caitlin Meighan, Harlequin-Aaron Rogers, Vivandiere-Anastacia Holden, Soldier-Derrick Agnoletti; Nutcracker Doll, Graham Maverick; Nutcracker Prince, Dylan Gutierrez; King of Mice, Mathew Adamczyk; First Battalion of Mice: Yoshihisa Arai, Fablo Lo Giudice, Shane Urton, Alberto Valazquez; Officers: Guillaume Basso, Raul Casasola, Jpohn Mark Giragosian, Jack Thorpe-Baker; Snow Queen, Karta Zimmerman; Snow King, Fabrice Calmels; Snow Prince, Ricardo Santos; Snow Flakes: Katherine Bruno, Erica Lynette Edwards, Cara Marie Gary, Elizabeth Hansen, Jamie Kickey, Anastacia holden, Dara Holmes, Jeraldine Mendoza, Amber Neumann, Mahallia Ward, Jenny Winton and Joanna Wozniak; Snow Winds: Yoshihisa Arai, Guillaume Basso, John Mark Giragosian, Arron Rogers, Lucas Segovia and Alberto Velazquez.

The Cast (Act Two)

Sugar Plum Fairy, Victoria Jaiani; Nutcracker Prince, Dylan Gutierrez; Divertissements: Chocolate from Spain, Valerie Robin; Coffee from Arabia: Kara Zimmerman & Fabrice Calmels; Tea from China: Abigail Simon & Ricardo Santos; Nougats from Russia: Joanna Wozniak, derrick Agoletti, Yoshisisa Arai and Lucas Segovia; Marzipan Shepherdesses: Katherine Bruno, Yumelia Garcia, Elizabeth Hansen; Mother Ginger, Francis Kane; Waltz of the Flowers, A Victorian Bouquet: Pansey, Christine Rocas; Rose, Amber Neumann; Dahlia, Erica Lynette Edwards; Carnation, Caitlin Meighan; Iris, Jenny Winton; Columbine, Jacquiline Moscicke; Rhododendron, Mahallia Ward; Clematis, Alexis Polito; Cavaliers: Temur Suluashvili, Shane Urton, Alberto Velazquez and Mauro Villanueva.

Behind the Scenes Personnel

Ashley C. Weater, Artistic Director; Christopher Clinton Conway, Executive Director; Nicolas Blanc, Ballet Master; Graca Sales, Ballet Master and Principle Coach; Willy Shives, Ballet Master; Scott Speck Music Director; Katherine Selig, Principle Stage Manager; Amanda Heurmann, Stage Manager and Jack Mehler Lighting Director.

Of special note was the Cleveland Orchestra Children’s Chorus and the Many Children Supernumeraries who added so much to this performance.

A Note to Parents and Audience Members

While this ballet is the perfect production to bring children to and introduce them to the magic of classical ballet, you must be able to access your child’s maturity and worthiness to attend. A case in point was during last night’s performance when a young child was bodily removed literally screaming at the top of his lungs and could be heard all the way down the entire length of the State Theatre Grand Lobby much to the embarrassment of his parents. Much to his credit, Michael Smith (playing Dr. Drosselmeyer) came to the edge of the stage and adlibbed by putting his index finger to his lips much to the delight of the crowd.

Secondly, children (and adults) should be educated in proper theater etiquette. Once the performance begins, all talking stops and remains halted until the end of the show. Now is not the time to give a class on what the show is about. I suggest you do that at home prior to the performance then ask the child afterwards if what they learned before the performance matched what they saw on stage.

Third, the dress code. As far as I am concerned you can wear whatever you desire when you go to say...a multiplex or maybe... a monster truck rally. But when you attend a prestigious event such as a classical ballet performance or for that matter any "big show" at playhouse square you should dress as if it is an important event. This means nice dresses for the ladies and dress shirts, ties, dress pants and jackets for the men (or better yet a nice suit). Wearing retro remakes of high school letter jackets and blue jeans is not acceptable. You embarrass yourselves, Playhousesquare and the city of Cleveland. If you do not have a nice suit, then don't come. Save your money and go see Batman VI or the newest James Bond movie., but stay away from PlayhouseSquare until you can dress the part.

Lastly, be more discreet with the applause. It is bad manners to applaud before any particular dance number is completed. While it is ok to gasp at the various seemingly impossible moves, hold the clapping until they finish. This lessens the distractions and the orchestra and dancers can be better enjoyed. In spite of the various minor distractions, this truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

Although I believe that all the tickets are sold out, the Joffrey Ballet and Cleveland Orchestra production of The Nutcracket at the State Theatre will be playing on:

Friday, November 30th, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 1, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 2, 2:00 p.m.