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Monday, December 10, 2012

UNC School of the Arts Production:The Nutcracker

For 47 years, the UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA) has graced audiences with their performance of The Nutcracker at the Stevens Center, which the school now owns. This production of the world's most popular ballet is certainly jewel we wear proudly in our crown as the city of Arts and Innovation. The UNCSA's The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition for many in the area, bringing thousands to the streets of downtown Winston-Salem. The UNCSA's production of the ballet is like a glorious advent calendar gift we get to open in anticipation of Christmas, chock full of ballet talent, exquisite costumes, stunning set designs and the live orchestra, directed by Charles Barker, as it plays Tchaikovsky's score, is the sparkly frosting on the Christmas cake. The 2012 performance just celebrated opening night Saturday, December 8, 2012.

Clara and doll.jpgThe Nutcracker Prince takes Clara through an enchanted forest where the snow flakes dance. The production does a wonderful job with the special effect of falling snow. As the music gets faster and more dancers enter the scene, even more snow falls, and faster, resembling a blizzard before the dancers peel off and the snow lightens. After intermission, the curtain rose and the audience gasped as a thick fog rolled off the stage and into the orchestra pit. The prince leads Clara to the Land of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy is presiding until the Prince's return. The prince acts out the story for the royal court, recounting the battle with the Mouse King. To reward Clara's heroism, treats from around the world dance for her: chocolate from Spain, tea from China, coffee from Arabia, vodka from Russia, Danish shepherdesses, and the always bizarre, yet comedic, giant Mother Ginger, who is rolled out before releasing her clown "Ginger Snaps" children from under her skirts, followed by a dancing bouquet of flowers, and ending with the Sugar Plum Fairy's waltz with her  cavalier. Clara wakes to find that it was all a beautiful dream.

As soon as the guests leave and Clara reluctantly bids Fritz goodbye, she dozes off with her nutcracker in her arms and the magnificent Christmas tree, illuminated by hundreds of fiber optic lines, quadruples in size to give the illusion that Clara has shrunk to the size of a doll. A troop of adorable baby mice and playful mice skitter and dance and made the audience laugh before harassing Clara. The now life-size nutcracker steps in to save her. After battling with the mouse king, with Clara's help, the nutcracker kills the mouse king, and transforms into a prince (who resembles Fritz).A wintry scene opens as the family returns home to welcome guests to their Christmas party. The children did such an amazing job as the rowdy little boys play soldiers and tout their trumpets. Then the mysterious councilman, magician and toymaker, Drosselmeyer, who is also god father to Clara and Fritz, enters to entertain the children with tricks and toys and a gift of a special nutcracker to Clara. The following party scenes foreshadow Clara's magical dream to come.

Not only is the dancing and the music phenomenal, it is impossible to say enough about the costumes in this production. To get lost in the confections of the costume shop of this production would be a be a particularly sweet bit of heaven.

Based on the professional caliber of the production, unwitting viewers would be astonished to discover that it is an all-school production featuring students not only as the cast, but also in the orchestra and crew. However, world-renowned guests artists Veronika Part (Principal, American Ballet Theatre) and Charles Askegard (Principal, New York City Ballet) will join the UNCSA cast for the performances on December 13 at 7:30 p.m. and December 14 at 7:30 p.m.

The full performance schedule for the UNCSA production of The Nutcracker is: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are: Prime Orchestra, $68; Orchestra Center, $50 for adults and $35 for children 13 and under; Orchestra Sides and Front Balcony, $45 for adults and $30 for children 13 and under; Center Balcony, $33 for adults and $24 for children 13 and under; Rear Balcony, $25 for adults and $20 for children 13 and under. Prime Orchestra seating for the two guest artist performances on Dec. 13 and 14 is $75.  For the best deal in town take advantage of the great prices on The Nutcracker “Family Four Pack” for the evening performances on Thursday, Dec. 13 and Sunday, Dec. 16: $130 for Orchestra Side/Front Balcony and $95 for Center Balcony.  The “Family Four Pack” offer is subject to availability.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit or call the box office at (336) 721-1945.

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