News Column

Nuts for "The Nutcracker"? Pick from 5 productions

November 29, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 29--We're just past elections of one sort, and here comes another roster of candidates: the "Nutcrackers."

Hundreds of ballets set to Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" are staged throughout the nation every December. There's even one tonight. Hampton Roads has at least five, and each has a marketing ploy that says, in essence, "Pick me!"

They're each a little different, so we're giving you a kind of comparison Q&A. In the spirit of the sugar-treat season, and recognizing that most Nutcrackers include a pass through the Land of Sweets, we're calling them the Candied-Dates.

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"Great Russian Nutcracker"

Who The Moscow Ballet

When 7:30 tonight

Where Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Market St., Virginia Beach

Cost $27.50 to $68

More info 385-2787, www.sandlercenter.org

Run time Two hours

Spokesperson Sally Michael Keyes, public relations director for Moscow Ballet North America

What makes your "Nutcracker" stand out?

Our "Nutcracker" features a company of 40 professionally trained dancers, so you get amazing solo artistry and group artistry, too. It also features some Russian elements. We have a dove of peace that escorts the heroine -- we call her Masha -- to Act 2. Traditionally, Act 2 is the Land of Sweets. In the Moscow ballet version, it is the land of peace and harmony.

Are you using any local talent?

The Conservatory of Dance in Virginia Beach is our host studio, but children from all over were invited to audition. There are 28 this year.

Live music or recorded?

We perform to a recording by the Moscow Festival Orchestra, and they recorded it especially for our performances with the ballet tempo.

In the party scene, how do you make your Christmas tree grow?

Our Christmas tree grows to about 50 feet tall. It grows by a pulley system from up in the fly loft. It's fabric, and it rolls up at the end of the night, and it is decorated with gold trim and hand-painted.

What does your Sugar Plum Fairy wear?

We do not have a Sugar Plum Fairy, but we have the music. It's just a different story line. Our principal ballerina is Masha, and she dances at the end of Act 1 and the end of Act 2 with her Nutcracker Prince.

What's your best pitch?

These dancers are the best trained in the world. They spend 10 years training before their official performances start. They're just stupendous, glorious dancers. You don't need to know or be interested in ballet. When you watch them move or leap or spin, it's a joy to watch.

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"The Nutcracker"

Who Ballet Virginia International

When and where Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, 110 W. Finney Ave. -- 3 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15; Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Market St., Virginia Beach -- 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21; 2 p.m. Dec. 22

Cost Suffolk Center: $25 adults, $15 students; Sandler Center: $20 to $47

More info Suffolk Center: 923-2900, www.suffolkcenter.org; Sandler Center: 385-2787, www.sandlercenter.org

Run time Two hours

Spokesperson Janina Michalski Bove, co-artistic director

What makes your "Nutcracker" stand out?

Our new Lands set -- the dream Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are actually traveling, the way we've designed the second act -- you can see where they are traveling to. We've done that by having locally designed and built hard scenic flats.

Are you using any local talent?

We had 155 dancers audition for our production, and we accepted all of them, although some dropped out because they couldn't commit to the schedule -- it's a pretty intense schedule. And we'll be working with some local professional dancers.

Live music or recorded?

Live music with (Virginia Beach orchestra) Symphonicity. We're also using the Salem High School (Visual and Performing Arts Academy) chorus during the snow scene, under the direction of Don Krudop. In Suffolk it's recorded music, because it's a small venue.

In the party scene, how do you make your Christmas tree grow?

It's magic! Ropes, pulleys and mirrors. It's just the design of the tree, and this one has 2,800 lights on it. And it just keeps going. It fills the stage until you can't see the top of it. And it probably fills a good half of the stage across. It's huge.

What's your best pitch?

All of our sets are locally designed and produced. The choreography is created right here in Norfolk. The musicians are local. The majority of the dancers are local and are growing up here. ... Our production is affordable. And there's free parking.

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"The Nutcracker"

Who The Richmond Ballet

When 7 p.m. Dec. 6, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 p.m. Dec. 8

Where Chrysler Hall, 215 St. Paul's Blvd., Norfolk

Cost $20 to $75

More info 800-982-2787, www.sevenvenues.com

Run time Two hours

Spokesperson Brett Bonda, managing director

What makes your "Nutcracker" stand out?

We are a professional ballet company. We are the state ballet. We are different than your local dance school production, and it is a professional production.

Are you using any local talent?

We cast approximately 80 students from Hampton Roads to perform with our professional dancers. They represent something like 16 different dance studios. We have a wonderful partnership with (Norfolk choreographer) Todd Rosenlieb. He'll be doing (the magician) Drosselmeyer.

Live music or recorded?

We use the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in the pit.

Your favorite part of this production?

I personally like the battle scene. It's over the top. I think it's humorous because instead of having swords for the battle, we use forks and knives. Big ones. And we even have a cheese-a-pult that catapults a block of cheese across the stage.

In the party scene, how do you make your Christmas tree grow?

It's slowly lifted up from the stage. It grows and grows. And we do have some pyrotechnics.

What's your best pitch?

Some companies will just go through the motions of "Nutcracker." We take this very seriously. We don't just phone it in.

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"A Rocked Out Nutcracker"

Who Conservatory of Dance

When 3 p.m. Dec. 14

Where Green Run High School, 1700 Dahlia Drive, Virginia Beach

Cost $15 adults, $10 ages 18 and younger

More info 714-2997, www.conservatoryofdancelimited.com

Run time 90 minutes

Spokesperson Susan Boyette, director

What makes your "Nutcracker" stand out?

Mine is set in present day, where everyone is going shopping and getting their picture made with Santa Claus. And it's announced in the mall that Santa will be giving away a special gift to a lucky girl or a lucky boy. ... The music is different, since I've set it to rock guitar."

Are you using any local talent?

It's all local talent.

Live music or recorded?

It's recorded. I had the score remixed. We had to coordinate the melody of Tchaikovsky's score with rock guitar and drums. I'm using music from The Invincible Czars, Duke Ellington and Christmas at the Devil's House.

In the party scene, how do you make your Christmas tree grow?

I don't have a party scene, or a Christmas tree, because we're inside a shopping mall. In our mall, we have a sweet shop, where the variations (dancers representing different nations) come out. And we have a toy store, where the soldiers come out. And we have a pet store, where the mice come out.

What's your best pitch?

One, my prices are reasonable. Two, I think it's the appropriate length that kids can sit through and want to come back. It's colorful, it's different, it's modern day.

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"The Nutcracker"

Who American Youth Ballet Company

When 7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 2 p.m. Dec. 22

Where Ferguson Center for the Arts, 1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News

Cost $27.50 to $37.50

More info 594-8752, www.fergusoncenter.org

Run time about 90 minutes

Spokesperson Ron Boucher, founding artistic director of the Williamsburg-based Community Alliance for the Performing Arts; the American Youth Ballet Company is a subsidiary.

What makes your "Nutcracker" stand out?

Our production was selected by a (live-streaming) company in New York because of the quality and the actual choreography level to broadcast into (Virginia) schools last year. The response was so favorable that this year they're videotaping our "Nutcracker" as a potential national broadcast next year.

Are you using any local talent?

Most of the cast is local.

Live music or recorded?

Recorded.

In the party scene, how do you make your Christmas tree grow?

It's tied onto a pipe in the fly loft and pulled up. The tree isn't the tantalizing part of the show. There's very little gimmickry in our production. It's very simple, which exposes the choreography more and the technique and abilities of the dancers.

What's your best pitch?

To see the achievements made by the children and youth in this production, from the ones who are still students, to the ones we have trained who have gone on to be professionals at the highest level possible.

Teresa Annas, 757-446-2485, teresa.annas@pilotonline.com

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(c)2013 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com

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