It’s always a pleasure to see a performance at San Gabriel Mission Playhouse with it’s breathtaking, painted ceilings,Spanish lighting fixtures and architecture that transports you to another time. Add to that the exuberance of The Nutcracker ballet and Tchaikovsky’s thrilling music and you are in for a holiday treat for the whole family. From the first strains of music as snow begins to fall by way of clever lighting and video design, we are whisked away to Christmas Eve party preparations where we meet young Clara, her brother, parents and her mysterious godfather and toymaker, Herr Drosselmeyer. He brings toys to all the children and saves his most treasured Nutcracker for Clara.
Although I do miss a live orchestra, it is the dance that is the main focus here and PDT combines professional guest artists along with company members and student dancers to bring the story to life in delightful fashion. The production values are top flight from the sumptuous, period costumes to the technical feat of growing the modest Christmas tree to a giant one when Clara is taken to the Land of Enchantment.
Jessamyn Lawrence is exquisite as the Sugar Plum Fairy as she and the dashing Grigori Arakelyan as her Cavalier perform a lovely pas de deux that crescendos to a show stopping finale.
The Snow Queen scene that closes the first act is stunning with Ashleigh Doede, Elen Harutyunyan and Jessamyn Lawrence alternating in the Snow Queen role. Francisco Martinez is an enchanting Drosselmeyer and Vega Pierce-English is dapper and charming as his nephew/apprentice. The wonderful Richard Bradley is masterful as both Clara’s handsome father and as the Arabian dancer in the Enchantment scenes. His pas de deux with Ashleigh Doede was gorgeous. The Spanish dance was a standout with the kinetic Gabrielle Epifano and charismatic Joseph Hetzer.
The cast is rounded out with the delicate Carrie Cuenca alternating with the lovely Carisa Joyner in the role of Clara, with Jacob Schmieder-Hacker & Pierce-English as her brother Fritz.
Guest Artist Antonio Lopez is hysterical as Mother Ginger in the gigantic dress with hidden surprises which brought the most raucous laughter and applause of the night. Company members beautifully fill the roles of the dancers from around the world in the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy including Noel Dilworth, Kelsey Dorr, Damontae Hack, Zoe Hakonsson, Aileen Hiu, Andres Marquez, Heather McCaig, Claudia Musikul, Katlin Mae Rideout, Jacob Robleto, Glenn Rodriguez, Payton Smith, Jose Luis Trujillo, Hake Waiblinger and Shannon Bunch. And completing the ensemble are trainees Isabel de la Torre Roehl, Tian Griffin, Sophie Kull, Molly Mullane, Sofia Saenz and at least a dozen or more students of PDT.
PDT has created a holiday tradition that is beloved throughout the San Gabriel Valley, deftly & flawlessly choreographed by artistic director Cynthia Young, that is a joy to experience whether you are a wide-eyed youngster seeing the Rat King for the first time or whether you’ve listened to the famous score for 80 years. It’s magic.
Tickets range from $20-$65. For further information and to buy tickets call (626) 683-3459 or visit www.pasadenadance.org. Final performances Dec. 22 & 23.