For the 12 years that I’ve been at the Quad-City Times, Joedy Cook has been on me to write a review of a production by Ballet Quad-Cities, of which she is the executive director.
Several writers here have taken on the task during that time, but they had what I lack: a background in or knowledge of dance. I’ve done enough theater to try to sound like I know what I’m talking about and have seen enough concerts to have a pretty firm base of expertise.
But ballet? Not enough of an expert to try. Cook said not to just judge the show by its footwork, but the entire performance package. So, on Friday morning, during a matinee for Quad-City schoolchildren, I gave it a shot.
“It’s a modern miracle!” Cook exclaimed as I settled into a seat to watch “The Nutcracker,” which has three public performances this weekend.
Now I’m wondering what took me so long.
From a standpoint of theatricality alone, “Nutcracker” is dazzling.
The opening scene, set in the Stahlbaum home during a Christmas party, is a frenetic and engaging hubbub of activity, packed with full-speed action, several touches of slapstick
comedy and fluid motions by all of the performers onstage.
Add to that a luscious set and backdrops, proficient lighting and colorful costumes and the entire act is a true delight.
The second act, as viewed by the Nutcracker (Jacob Lyon) and Clara (Emily Kate Long), the Stahlbaums’ daughter, is a succession of impressive dances from around the world.
That includes the grace of Margaret Huling in the Spanish dance, the athleticism of Jason Gomez and Jackie Jensen in the Arabian, the precision of Calvin Rowe in the Chinese, the exhilaration of the performers in the Russian and the magnificence of Long and Lyon in the final pas de deux.
Artistic director Courtney Lyon keeps everything at a lively pace with a variety of dance styles.
It was nice to see people I know from area theater — the Curtainbox’s Mike Schulz returning as the dapper Drosselmeyer and Genesius Guild regular Earl Strupp as the grandfather — in the mix as well.
If you still want me to judge “Nutcracker” for its dancing alone, you’re on the wrong track. But judging from the entire spectacle itself, it’s pure magnificence.