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Review: Alabama Ballet’s The Nutcracker (with a 5-year-old!!)

After telling friends I was taking my five-year-old daughter to see Alabama Ballet’s The Nutcracker this season, I got some strange looks. “Isn’t she going to be bored?” “Will she be quiet/still enough?” I was a little nervous to find out, TBH. She was used to children’s theatre productions where there is narration and dialogue, and lots of audience participation. With ballet: not so much. Adding to the chaos, my 8-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter came, too. I went into the night knowing that it could turn out to be a complete and total disaster.

If you’re not familiar with the story of The Nutcracker, here’s a quick summary. Young Marie (called Clara in some versions) is given a nutcracker doll for Christmas. He comes alive and defeats the evil Mouse King (soooo creepy!!) in a tame, non-scary battle. Afterwards, the two go together to a magical kingdom populated by dolls, sweets, and flowers.

The beginning party scene sets the stage for the story. There are tons of children running around so kids in the audience feel like part of the action right away. Marie and her Nutcracker-come-to-life are fun to watch as they work together to defeat the Mouse King, breaking an ancient curse and turning the Nutcracker into a prince. Next comes the Snowflake scene, which has always a favorite of mine as dancers move swiftly and silently in a dark forest. It’s a magical moment when snowflakes suddenly start to fall, first on the dancers and, then, to the delight of literally every person, on the audience. Beautiful child angels seem to float across the stage holding candles. Gigantic Mother Ginger comes onstage waving to the crowd while tiny Polichenelle (adorable and not scary) clowns run out from her skirt, providing the perfect amount of silliness amidst the technically and visually stunning ballet. The dancing sweets are high-energy with spirited jumps and quick feet. The final send-off is particularly fun for kids and a perfect ending for the beautiful and engaging story the dancers have told.

I’m relieved to say my kids were spellbound from the opening strains of music until curtain call (with a break for antsiness at intermission). The Nutcracker is so beautifully presented by Alabama Ballet, words and explanations aren’t needed. Tchaikovsky’s score will be familiar enough after being used in commercials (like this insane one), cartoons, and movies that even young kids will recognize and enjoy it. The costumes in this production are just stunning with intricate details and bright colors. My kids loved the costumes that looked like candy because: candy. My youngest is, of course, captivated by sparkly tiaras and fluffy tutus so she loved Dewdrop and Sugarplum Fairies, and the beautiful pink ombre Flowers.
Here’s what my kiddos said about their favorite parts:

11-year-old: “When it snowed in the theatre was the best! I also liked the Mouse King – he was fun!” P.S. I don’t think you’re supposed to like the Mouse King but 11-year-olds are weird so…

8-year-old: “I liked the candy canes and their hula-hoops.”

5-year-old: “When the sleigh came and they were in it and the Sugar Plum Fairy when she was dancing with the prince.”

If you’ve never been to an Alabama Ballet performance, you should know that we are extremely fortunate to have such incredible talent here. Alabama Ballet is one of only EIGHT companies IN THE WORLD official licensed to perform The Nutcracker with George Balanchine’s classic choreography and there’s a reason they were given that honor. So, not only is the production gorgeous, it’s also very rare and special.

Other people have to travel hours to see this choreography; you have only to get yourself to Samford University’s Wright Center in Homewood. If you’ve seen The Nutcracker ballet before but have never seen Alabama Ballet’s version, you should really consider remedying that between now and December 23rd. Oh, and take your five-year-old!

Remaining Show Schedule:
SATURDAY DECEMBER 15
2:30 PM
SATURDAY DECEMBER 15
7:30 PM
SUNDAY DECEMBER 16
2:30 PM
FRIDAY DECEMBER 21
7:30 PM
SATURDAY DECEMBER 22
2:30 PM
SATURDAY DECEMBER 22
7:30 PM
SUNDAY DECEMBER 23
2:30 PM

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