In with the old, in with the new

By By Cressa Perloff

By Cressa Perloff

For more than 50 years, Ballet West has performed “The Nutcracker” around Christmastime. With traditional music by P.I. Tchaikovsky and choreography by local Willam Christensen, the show is a huge tradition and a huge production.

Although the plot of the ballet varies slightly from one ballet company to another, a general synopsis is this: The show begins with a grand Christmas party, complete with costumes reminiscent of the late 19th century, when the ballet originally premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia. Uncle Drosselmeyer, one of the esteemed guests, gives young Marie the gift of a Nutcracker doll.

Her brother breaks it, but she loves the doll anyway. As she holds it in her sleep that night, she is transported to a land where the Nutcracker is a real person. Together they fight larger-than-life mice and travel to fantastical places, where various people present themselves in showy scenes with elaborate sets and costumes.

Every year, the show includes countless children in its cast, as the show is primarily about children.

“We have five casts of children, and every kid has family to come watch,” said Nathaniel King, a Ballet West company member. “It is our biggest seller?due to the fact that so many children are involved.”

The children also revitalize the company members.

“Especially at these ages, they’re really excited to be on stage,” he said. “On the 27th run of ‘The Nutcracker,’ it is this child’s third run, and they’re really happy to be here.”

King also explained that Ballet West’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be “more the original than ever before this season,” because new artistic director Adam Sklute brought in BenĂ© Arnold, who had been involved in the production of Christensen’s original version in the 1940s.

Although in the past, the company ommitted the difficult parts, it is now including them in the production, King said. He said that “the artistic staff is being ambitious and really working hard on making their mark on the company.”

For example, King will now perform a solo in the “Spanish Dance.” This section had been performed for years by three ballerinas but now includes a male matador role and two ballerinas, as in older versions.

In a show where male company members typically start in the Russian corps and move up year to year, adding a male solo in the second act opens up many opportunities.

“There wasn’t a lot for guys to do before this year. Having (the “Spanish Dance”) has really opened up a lot for me,” King said.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at Capitol Theatre at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7-8, 12-15, 17, 19-22 and 26-29, at 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 15-16, 21-23, 26 and 29, and at noon Dec. 24. “Sugar Plum Parties,” where guests can meet Nutcracker characters, occur after each 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets range from $18 to $66. Sugar Plum Party tickets are $5. Call 801-355-ARTS or visit www.arttix.org.

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