Christmas is alive and well with BTT’s Nutcracker

–by Lindsay Smith

Sylvania resident Evan Long thrills the audience with his Russian dance.                     —Photo courtesy of  Patrick Wolff
Sylvania resident Evan Long thrills the audience with his Russian dance. —Photo courtesy of Patrick Wolff

Christmas in Toledo without Nigel Burgoine’s Ballet Theatre of Toledo’s Nutcracker would be similar to waking up on Christmas morning and finding no tree or presents! This, together with the setting of the wonderful Valentine Theatre, with its plush Christmassy red seats, transports the viewer to another time and another world, something that no other venue or production in Toledo can give at this time of the year.

Even the audience seems to exude “Christmas” adding to the pre-curtain-up excitement for this definitely family event, with every little girl looking their prettiest and every little boy scrubbed up to his presentable best to match the wonderful costuming of the principals and cast in this, the twelfth season for this remarkable and truly successful, near professional home-grown company.

And yet it is not the “same old same old” as so many beloved traditions can become. The freshness and sparkle continues as new routines are introduced and traditional ones refined or given a new perspective to the delight of the audience. Of the production itself once again the sheer discipline of the corp-de-ballet, the backbone of any ballet company, shines through, with every member obviously enjoying the thrill of dancing to a full house.

Added to the always effective staging was a new scrim for the font of curtain action. The strength of the Company lies in the high standard it maintains. The professional guest artists in no way outshone the company dancers but rather inspired them to reach even greater heights.

Besides the wonderful simpatico and technical perfection exhibited between guest artists and Dawnell Dryja and Christian Griggs-Drane, both with the Grand Rapid Ballet, the Company’s own principals showed an expertise that many professional ballet companies would gladly accept as the standard required.

Particularly obvious in the Spanish Dance was the vibrant energy of Jacqueline Weaner and Larissa Huffman. The elegant extension of Fiona Connolly supported by a confident Mason Bassett highlighted the technical accomplishment that the Company has achieved. Hannah Pruiett added a strong interpretation to the Chinese Dance. The Mirlitons shone in their glamorous tutus and Mackenzie Abodelly displayed very strong technique in her demanding fouette turns.

This discipline and technical ability was particularly obvious in the Dance of Flowers with Regan Simon as Queen of the Flowers and the Corp de ballet of “flowers” in perfect unison throughout and all thoroughly enjoying the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky. Now in his fourth year at BTT young Evan Long as Fritz allowed not only his technical ability to show but also his infectious personality.

And at the Sunday performance (Sydney Kutcher) was a believable and dreamy-like Clara. Coupled with the success of this production of course was the orchestra, under Lloyd Butler, which provided just the right support and depth – making it as much part of the performance as the dancers themselves.

It was fitting that Toledo’s leading choral group, Masterworks Chorale, should provide the choral accompaniment for this very professional company

Coupled with the experience of Richard Helldobler, (has there ever been a better Drosselmeyer?) and James Norman – so well-known to Toledo audiences and of course Anne Marie Getz and you have a strong and very experienced cast from which to build, and Nigel Burgoine used this to perfection.

Overall, one comes away from such a performance with a tremendous hope and optimism for the youth of today. All that the art of the ballet requires – discipline, the teamwork and cohesion needed, and the hours of training and rehearsal, well and truly showed in this year’s performance of Ballet Theatre of Toledo’s Nutcracker.


Lindsay Smith was a career diplomacy in Australia’s foreign service, being consul to information and cultural affairs in postings in Europe, Scandinavia, the South Pacific and the United Nations in New York.