By Kathi E.B. Ellis for WFPL
It always feels like the holiday season is officially underway once I’ve seen “The Nutcracker.” This oh-so familiar holiday tradition is as endemic to the season as “A Christmas Carol” or, in recent years, “Santaland Diaries” or the plethora of popular songs that mark this time of year. It’s a rite of passage into the holidays. And the Louisville Ballet does not disappoint.
Now in its ninth year, this Brown-Forman-sponsored production looks as fresh as it did when it premiered. Purely practically the Ballet is to be complimented on how it is storing and maintaining the extensive sets and costumes.
Choreographer Marius Petipa and composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky gave future generations of choreographers and designers a great challenge as the story moves from a middle-class Christmas party, to a dream battle between the party gifts, to a fantastical snow-inspired vista, to an imaginary Kingdom of Sweets back to a suggestion of the original house, all hung together by Marie’s imagination.
At Sunday’s matinee, Marie was danced by Shelby Shenkman making her debut in this role. Shenkman brings a wide-eyed wonder to the delights of the season and a lightness to her steps that suggests an eager almost-teen. When brother Fritz (Ben Workman) chases her with his stuffed Rat, he’s not just an annoying younger brother. Marie clearly dislikes rats, which sets her up perfectly for the battle between the rats and the soldiers – it’s a big deal for her to pitch in.