It’s never easy saying goodbye but, after more than 500 performances in 23 holiday seasons, the John McFall version of the famous Nutcracker will finally be put to bed. I was there when McFall initially announced his retirement on stage after a performance. Before him, the company spent many years performing a traditional version set to the sounds of none other than Peter Tchaikovsky. But fret not friends, for the Nutcracker has been left in good hands. The Bolshoi-trained Gennadi Nedvigin will be debuting an all-new Nutcracker next December in 2018.
Storied favorite Drosselmeyer (Nathan Griswold) approached the stage from amongst the crowd on two separate occasions and wowed the audience with his magic and illusions. It’s the classic story with a few twists for your viewing pleasure, like the overdramatic acting from the mice once the Rat King appears and the ever-so-exciting performances by the children in the “Mother Matrushka” (Zachary Alden) scene. The term is Russian and although you may not be familiar with ‘nesting dolls’ if you were born before 1990, you’ve probably seen them in your lifetime at some point. This was one of the more popular ones from TV back in the day, but in this story, children appear from under her blouse and put on a show with dancing and cartwheels galore. Another favorite that gets the crowd clapping is “Trepak” (Dylan Clinard, Lucas Labrador, Lenin Valladares), which is three high-energy men that are going to leap on stage, perform tricks, hop over each other, and patiently wait for you to applaud them before they leave.
I’ve been very pleased with the past three years of Nutcracker by Atlanta Ballet. There’s been a gradual swing of inclusion and it’s definitely needed (in Ballet and Opera specifically). Last year I lauded the Asian duo that played the Snow King & Queen and this year to my surprise, they featured an African-American as Mr. Petrov (Keith Reeves).
The two ACTs can be described as childlike fun (ACT I) and the beauty of dance (ACT II). ACT II is where you’re going to hear the best of Tchaikovsky and see the best of the company. On top of the aforementioned scenes, other notable performances come from the Sugar Plum Fairy (Jessica Assef), Cavalier (Moisés Martin), and Arabian (Monika Haczkiewicz and Keith Reeves). It should be noted that because of the number of dancers needed for the performances the roles played changed by night. The ones I’ve listed will be performing December 21, 26, & 28 at 2:00 p.m.
John McFall’s Nutcracker will play through December 28. Be sure to witness his last hurrah before it’s too late. You can buy tickets here and also see the schedule. I give it’s final run an 8.5 out of 10. It’s winter and there’s a performance downtown so don’t be afraid to dress up. Also be courteous to others while at the theatre. Every playbill at The Fox has the basic rules of etiquette listed towards the back. Be mindful of wrapping your arms around a loved one while seated (so people behind you can see) and whatever needs to be done, do it before, intermission, or after the show (leaving in the middle of a performance is rude and distracting).
*Photo: Charlie McCullers