At the Marcus Center for Performing Arts in Uihlein Hall, the stage curtains glisten with silver blue sparkle while candy canes border the hems. In the audience children dressed in their holiday finery eagerly wait for the curtains to open and bring the Milwaukee Ballet’s The Nutcracker to life one more December.

Artistic Director. Director and Choreographer Michael Pink walks on the stage to request a contribution for the Stein’s Angel Program that allows under served children to attend a performance of The Nutcracker each year for a $10.00 donation…the angel ornament another reward for the generous giver. Then Pink exclaims, “The festive season begins right now, right here.”

Those gleaming curtains silently separate and present the Tannebaum Family Drawing Room where the toy maker Drosselmeyer extravagantly spreads his magic dust over Clara, Fritz and Marie. Which makes his special present to Clara, a princely Nutcracker, come alive on Christmas Eve!

Pink transformed the traditional Nutcracker during his years at the Milwaukee Ballet. Since his tenure, The Nutcracker retains that festive appeal he so eloquently spoke to. From the opening prologue, Drosselmeyer(Justin Genna) choreographs the on stage action that takes Clara, Fritz (Mark Petrocci) and Marie to the Land of Toys and Sweets by a flying toy train. Behind the scenes, Pink continues to tweak the full-length ballet with increasingly exceptional choreography.

Throughout Acts One and Two, the ballet lifts in the pas de deux were breathtaking. Whether between Karl(Ryan Martin)) and Marie (Luz San Miguel) or the Arabian Dancers (Susan Gartell & Matthew Frain) the intricate moves were spellbinding. Clara’s (Nicole Teague) red ribbon spiraled beautifully when she performed with the Chinese dancer (Barry Molina) and his dragon to delight the eye. 

The Milwaukee Ballet’s lavish scenery and costumes dazzle the audience. The carnival of colors, especially in Act Two that opens with the fabulous lighted carousel, can turn a child’s eyes and mind (of any age) to dreaming of sugarplums. Although in the Dance of the Snowflakes to end Act One, the snow drifts over the stage to deliver a frosty winter mist set against the ensemble’s pale blue tulle skirts and the Snow Queen’s (Yuki Clark)classical tutu.

One does miss the regal Sugarplum Fairy, that traditional role changed in Pink’s version by Marie dancing with her beau, Karl, and ballets themed after nursery rhymes. A young girl’s romantic fantasy could be played out when Clara danced with her Christmas Eve dream, the Nutcracker, which often won a little girl’s heart. Pink’s other changes add a cadre of children to the performance, which can be equally enchanting when accompanied by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s lyrical score played live by The Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. 

The Milwaukee Ballet's The Nutcracker produces an entrancing evening, complete with having your child’s picture taken with the several cast members after the performance ($15.00). Whether one sees the production for the first time or year after year, Pink and Drosselmeyer cast visions of sugarplums on an exquisite night of dance, music and theater that entertains every season without exception. 

The Milwaukee Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through December 26. For more information or tickets: 414.902.2103 or click the link to the left.  by Peggy Sue Dunigan