A Bounty of Nutcrackers

December 6, 2018
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By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez

Several renditions of “The Nutcracker,” like this one by Performing Arts Ensemble, can be found at various venues throughout the holiday season. Photo by Bart Lentini

RED BANK–Whether you’re a fan of sugar plums, Arabian dancers or Clara or the Nutcracker prince himself, there are plenty of places to catch the classic ballet that has become a holiday favorite, delighting school groups, proud parents and grandparents and audiences of all ages.

“The Nutcracker” is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” by way of Alexandre Dumas’ adapted story “The Story of a Nutcracker.” It premiered in Saint Petersburg in December 1892. Here are a few of the productions in the Two River area:

American Repertory Ballet (ARB) celebrates its 55th Nutcracker season and presents its annual production of the holiday classic at five venues throughout New Jersey, including Red Bank’s Two River Theater Dec. 14, 15 and 16.

Featuring more than 100 performers, Tchaikovsky’s score, stunning sets and choreography, ARB’s is one of the longest continuously running Nutcracker productions in the nation. ARB’s professional company are joined by students from Princeton Ballet School to tell the story of a young girl named Clara and how a mysterious gift from her Uncle Drosselmeyer brings about enchanted dreams and fantastical scenes.

“Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” sets the classic holiday tale in a 1980s Brooklyn nightclub. The contemporary production will be at the Paramount Theatre Dec. 13 Photo courtesy Hip-Hop Nutcracker

For each ticket purchased for that production, which will feature Concordia Youth Chorale, a portion will be donated to support the Middletown Arts Center.

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Maybe you were lucky enough to catch the premiere of Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” at Atlantic Cinemas in Atlantic Highlands as part of a fundraiser for the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School recently.

Atlantic Highlands native and FilmOneFest judge Gedney Webb was the music editor on the fantasy adventure film and spoke about his work on the project. The film retells the story of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and “The Nutcracker” and stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant and Misty Copeland, and features Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman. The movie is currently playing in theaters.

Dance companies in our area offer many opportunities to see more familiar faces among the ballerinas, acrobats and extras who grace the Nutcracker stages.

The Company of Dance Arts (CODA) brings the Nutcracker to life at the Basie Center Dec. 8 and 9. Founded in 1985 the company performs “The Nutcracker” each December.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s score the production features soloists from New York City ballet companies who join the accomplished local dancers in what is the most popular ballet of all time. Youngsters and adults will follow Clara as she journeys with her Nutcracker through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets to meet the Sugarplum Fairy.

For a different take on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story and Tchaikovsky’s classic score, there’s the “Hip-Hop Nutcracker” with Kurtis Blow at Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park Dec. 13. The contemporary re-imagination of the classic features a full-length production with a dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ and an electronic violinist.

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The “Hip Hop Nutcracker” celebrates love, community and the magic of New Year’s Eve. Through the spells cast by the mysterious Drosselmeyer, Maria-Clara and her Nutcracker prince travel back in time to the moment when her parents first meet in a 1980s Brooklyn nightclub.

The traditional classic Tchaikovsky score complements the power moves of the 12 dancers, with transitional and incidental music re-mixed and re-imagined. It is presented by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

For the past 37 years the Performing Arts Ensemble has brought together talented young dancers and children, joined by New York guests, for large cast, fully staged performances with elaborate scenery, costumes and special effects of the Big Holiday Show, including “The Nutcracker.” This year the lavish version of the holiday spectacular was held at Middletown Arts Center and Algonquin Arts Theatre In Manasquan.

No matter your style, there is a Nutcracker for everyone this holiday season.

This article was first published in the Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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