NORMAN — An adult Christmas party done in pantomime, gave way to a fantasy world viewed through a child's eyes, which cast its familiar spell over the audience, in a University of Oklahoma production of “The Nutcracker.”
Mary Margaret Holt directed and choreographed the Oklahoma Festival Ballet version of Tchaikovsky's holiday favorite.
Kara Troester was outstanding as Clara, the daughter of the party hosts who is given the nutcracker by the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer, played with just enough menace, and a patch on one eye, by Steve Brule.
An eighth-grader at Oklahoma Christian School in Edmond, Troester brought statu
Emerging from Drosselmeyer's cabinet, Sydney Gettel and Jonathan Garza mastered the mechanical movements of their doll characters in a scene which served as a preamble to Clara's at first disturbing dreams.
Giving these a nightmarish edge was a bizarre battle between colorfully clad mice, led by their king, Zeek Wright, and toy soldiers, led by Zach Leighton as the Nutcracker Prince, who becomes Clara's escort.
Getting there was half the fun during Clara's transition from Drosselmeyer's bad dreams to the escapist world of her own imagination where she was both an honored guest and occasional participant.
Clad in pale blue-white outfits, Billie Jean Kandravi and Brett Young as the snow queen and king, interacted beautifully with each other and a chorus of Snowflakes, in front of snowy trees in the Land of Snow.
After intermission, Clara made “The Journey” by sleigh through clouds and a starry sky, where Snow Crystals danced to a “Land of Enchantment” whose peaks and serpentine river can't be found in New Mexico.
There, Clara was treated to a variety of “Divertissements,” ranging from romantic Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dancers to marzipan shepherdesses, and a Russian Cossack with powerful leg kicks.
Delightful, too, was a grand pas de deux, choreographed by Holt after Lev Ivanov, performed with power, precision and delicacy by Kayla Davey and Nathan Young, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier.
Offering a hilarious respite was the spectacle of candy children coming out from under the giant striped skirt of Madame Bon Bon, played by a man, Matthew E. Ellis.
Other assets to the production were beautiful sets, lighting, costumes and the moving, memorable music of a large symphony orchestra, performing in front of the stage, conducted by Jonathan Shames.
Lasting some two hours including an intermission, and stopping just short of becoming too much of a good thing, OU's “Nutcracker” offered spectators a rich repast, which was nearly impossible to resist. As such, it should prove popular in its remaining performances, with advance reservations highly recommended.
— John Brandenburg
• When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Dec. 11.
• Where: Rupel Jones Theatre, 563 Elm, Norman.
• Information: 325-4101 or www.ou.edu/finearts.