'The Nutcracker' runs away to the circus in Clearwater
Sarasota’s Circus Nutcracker performers: the Prince (Ricardo Graziano), from left, Clara (Sara Sardelli), the Ringmaster (Logan Learned), Sugar (Kate Honea) and John Ringling (David Tlaiye).
By John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic
Thursday, December 20, 2012
You don't really need to know anything about the Ringling family and its circus to enjoy the Sarasota Ballet's new production of the Tchaikovsky holiday classic, which is called John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker. Basically, it's a traditional Nutcracker in a regional setting, not unlike, say, the San Francisco Ballet's version, which takes place during the world's fair held there in 1915.
Iain Webb, director of Sarasota Ballet, expanded his company to accommodate the full-length work, featuring about 45 company members and 25 children, and the circus theme works surprisingly well.
Of course, many residents of Sarasota know all about the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which wintered there and is central to the city's identity. A virtually full house turned out last Friday for the ballet's premiere at Van Wezel Hall. The production transfers to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater for three performances
this Friday and Saturday.
[sketches by Peter Docherty]
Designer Peter Docherty’s costumes reflect the art deco style of the Chrysler building, which dominates the skyline of The Nutcracker’s Act 1 setting in 1930s New York.
In this Nutcracker, created by a pair of Englishmen, choreographer Matthew Hart and designer Peter Docherty, the ballet is set in the 1930s in New York and Sarasota. The key adaptation in the libretto is to make circus boss John Ringling the Drosselmeyer character, the somewhat mysterious figure who brings the nutcracker toy to the Stahlbaum family Christmas party and presents it to Clara. The change is mostly effective, though by introducing Ringling/Drosselmeyer early in Act 1 — at the New York railroad station where Clara and her family see the circus loading up — the drama of his entrance to the party, announced by a delicious minor chord in the Tchaikovsky score, is undercut.
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