Nutcracker: Flying Sprite, Naughty Fritz

The day after Thanksgiving, and, no, we did not take the opportunity to “engage with grace,” as per the previous post. Next time I’ll practice what I preach.

But we did see the Nutcracker, a la Rochester City Ballet, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and Nazareth College’s Bach Children’s Chorus at today’s matinee in Eastman’s Theater’s opera house, named  Kodak Hall. The orchestra conducted by Michael Butterman was fabulous — I heard so many inner lines I’ve never heard before — and the sets were nice, the costumes scrumptious. Though I didn’t really intend to write about this performance, it was enough different, from any of the more than dozen Nuts that I’ve ever seen, that it’s worth a report.

One always wonders about regional ballet performances, so let’s get the “was it embarrassing” question out of the way. In no respect. Though the 24-year-old company (directed by Jamey Leverett) imported excellent guest artists for Sugar Plum and Cavalier, it would not have needed to. Its own principals — I saw Tara Lally, Courtney Catalana, and Adam Kittelberger in lead roles — seemed quite capable. The corps for Waltz of the Flowers was drawn from the 11 company members and eight apprentices, while the Snow corps also included some from a group of 16 younger dancers, labeled “trainees.”

What made it a little different included the additions in Act II — a British Toffee female soloist, dancing to veddy British-sounding music, and an Italian ice trio — plus three triple-cast sets of kids representing more than two dozen dance studios. In addition to 20 cherubim, a line of tiny red-and-green-clad Holly Sprites and another line of pages, brandishing horns, occupied the stage for a combined total of perhaps 90 seconds but think of the ticket sales they garnered!

What made it a lot different was a “Christmas Sprite,” the magical sidekick of the more-than-usually-ubiquitous Herr Drosselmayer, played by the charismatic Fidel Orillo, the company’s ballet master. Wired to fly like Peter Pan (as in Flying by Foy), Kelsey Schneider cast the spell that causes the tree to grow and the other spells as well.

As for the first act party scene — I have never, never in all my born days, seen such naughty children and such ineffective parents. Like a Breughel painting, so much mayhem happening with both kids and adults, everyone upstaging everyone else, that you didn’t know where to look. Cameron Thomas played Fritz with pathological glee, a rascal verging on bully. Seems to me a little less nastiness and a little more gentility could be just as funny.

But hey, I’m a grandma, and the kids will love it.

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