Beloved holiday tradition ‘The Nutcracker’ launches Nevada Ballet Theatre’s 50th-anniversary season

‘The Nutcracker’
Virginia Trudeau

Last Christmas, visions of Sugar Plum Fairies danced in our heads … but not onstage at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Like most everything else, Nevada Ballet Theatre’s traditional production of The Nutcracker was canceled due to the pandemic shutdown.

This Christmas, The Nutcracker returns with gusto, and a fully vaccinated cast. The iconic James Canfield-choreographed production kicks off NBT’s 50th anniversary season.

“It’s a great feeling to see the dancers in a studio working together, because throughout the pandemic, we weren’t able to do that,” NBT Artistic Director Roy Kaiser says. “It’s very, very hard to practice this craft over Zoom.”

While countless ballet companies produce The Nutcracker at Christmas, NBT’s version is special. “It’s very unique,” Kaiser says. “The most amazing thing about it is the size and scope of the production. The scenic elements were built for Reynolds Hall.”

One of Kaiser’s favorite parts of the production is the “Snow Scene” that ends Act I. “It’s really energetic music and wonderful choreography, and it snows onstage at the Smith Center,” he explains.

The starring role of Clara is uniquely challenging, so it’s split between two dancers appearing in different performances, Emma McGirr and Betsy Lucas. The role requires strong technique and physical strength, along with exuberant personality and an “ability to connect with the audience through your heart,” Kaiser says.

McGirr says returning to the stage as Clara will be both emotional and exciting. “It’s really special,” McGirr says. “I remember learning the part for years before even being able to get to perform it. With a year away from The Nutcracker, you appreciate it even more.”

More than just a ballet, The Nutcracker is an event for the whole family. Attendees should arrive early enough to visit The Nutcracker Wonderland (free with show tickets) inside the Smith Center’s Troesh Theatre. The holiday-themed environment offers photo ops and special readings of The Nutcracker. On December 18, fans can add the Sugar Plum Party to their 2 p.m. show tickets.

To best hear Tchaikovsky’s immortal score, Music fans should visit nevadaballet.org to select a showtime that features a live orchestra. “Tchaikovsky’s score is one of the most amazing pieces of classical music that’s ever been written,” Kaiser says. “I’m always thankful that the music is as great as it is, because we do so many performances. I never get tired of hearing it, and then seeing the choreography with it.”

Kaiser also sounds thrilled discussing the rest of NBT’s 2021-2022 season, thrilled.

In February, the company will debut new works created for NBT by talented choreographers Trey McIntyre and Lauren Lovette. “I’m so very excited to have both of those artists here in Las Vegas to create those works,” Kaiser says.

In the spring, NBT will pull out all the stops for a major production of Carmina Burana (May 20-22). “This is a very big undertaking for us; it will utilize every dancer in the company,” Kaiser says. The ballet is choreographed by Nicolo Fonte. “Our audiences will remember Nicolo for his production of Bolero, which, ironically, was the last program we were able to perform before COVID.” In addition to dancers, the show will feature a live orchestra and 76 singers who will remain on an onstage platform for the entire ballet.

On May 14, NBT will host a special gala celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. “I think [50 years] is remarkable for any arts organization, but for a ballet company in Las Vegas, it’s a great accomplishment. We’re looking at it as a celebration of the first 50 years and also looking to the next.”

The Nutcracker December 11-26, times vary, $31-$181. Reynolds Hall, thesmithcenter.com.

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