Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” is Back and Better Than Ever

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Nutcracker Ballet West Photo credit to Beau Pearson

Unveiling an entirely new set design and costumes, Ballet West takes the traditional and well-loved production of “The Nutcracker” to a different and majestic level with a $3 million makeover.

“This immediately created a fanciful world different from Ballet West’s previous version that was set at the turn of the 19th to 20th Century,” said Adam Sklute, artistic director and CEO of Ballet West, “The entire look and feel changed without a single alteration to the choreography.”

Beginning in 1944, this particular version of “The Nutcracker” was choreographed by William Christensen and has continued uninterrupted to this day. “The costumes, set designs and choreography are all a tribute to Mr. Christensen, the original founder,” said Sklute.

“The Nutcracker,” tells the timeless story of young Clara, a girl who loves Christmas, through a series of dream-like vignettes. Clara encounters a wide array of Christmas characters in the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy including the Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mother Buffoon and an assortment of soldiers, people and animals.

The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier were of breathtaking quality, performed by Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell. Their Grand Pas de Deux and subsequent solos were seemingly tireless and wonderfully executed with power and grace.

Waltz of the Flowers done with precision and impeccable timing was stunning. The Snow Queen and her Cavalier joint ensemble piece is also worth noting. This sequence closes the first act with synchronicity and a gorgeous snow-covered forest depicted brilliantly on stage.

The story is set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved and well recognizable score, which Christensen complements with his historic choreography. As always, the Ballet West orchestra is stunning as they soar through this timeless music score. They are vivacious and bold in their sound and collectively they truly tie the entire production together.

Ballet West boasts one of the longest running “Nutcracker” production in the western hemisphere. “We as Utahns, should be very proud to have the first and longest-running American production of The Nutcracker,” said Sklute.

This long-running tradition has received an incredible facelift over the course of a two-year process. The makeover — made possible by a lead gift from The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation — comprises 24 monolithic sets, more than 180 costumes and nearly 200 props.

The designs for this new “Nutcracker” are a tribute to the late Utah artist, James Christensen. With scenery by designer John Wayne Cook and additional designs from London-based Dick and Belinda Bird, the new design showcases the dancers like never before — 15 months were spent on the designs of costumes alone. Ballet West Director of Costume Production David Heuvel and his team of four stitchers, milliners, drapers, mask makers and pattern cutters have worked tirelessly to bring about this new look. Each tutu is hand-sewn with 16-yards of tulle and then adorned with 806 Swarovski crystals. With 40-hours of work in every tutu, each is worth an estimated $8,000.

With a running time of two hours, Ballet West and company stuns as they embody dazzling designs and portray this holiday classic with precision and finesse. The costumes and set help to tie the transitions of Clara’s story together in a more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing way. Special effects are also involved to deepen and enrich the artistry already present. A final note-ending highlight in the production is an actual flying sled Clara and the Nutcracker Prince depart on following the entire ensemble’s grand finale.

“Every year a production like “The Nutcracker” evolves and grows. There is something different, but it is evergreen,” said Sklute.

“The Nutcracker” will be playing at the Capitol Theater from Dec. 2- Dec. 30. Tickets start at $20. Note that student rush tickets are not available for performances of the “The Nutcracker.” For more information, visit www.balletwest.org or call (801) 869-6920.

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