Theatre Review: Atlanta Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

By Lisa Nanette Allender

The Atlanta Ballet’s collaboration with master illusionist Drew Thomas has resulted in a production of “The Nutcracker” which ambitiously reaches beyond its already high standards to create a most unique version of the holiday classic.

You’ll know something truly magical is happening inside the Fabulous Fox Theatre as props and set piece levitate, while characters appear and disappear thanks to the incredibly clever use of scrims, lighting effects and gorgeous, lush, stage scenery.

The story, of course, is the same: the mysterious Drosselmeyer  appears to facilitate dreams and a young girl, Marya, discovers a world of living toys, including mischievous mice, joyful lambs, and the scary Rat King. There are dancers from “exotic lands” and beautiful fairies that dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy (played by the enchanting Atlanta Ballet-veteran, Rachel van Buskirk).

Those expecting a traditional ballet full of leaps and arabesques might be (pleasantly) surprised at the addition of  Saturday Night Fever-inspired disco and even a bit of hip-hop. The juxtaposition of these dance styles manages to become fully integrated, and works seamlessly to draw us in. The audience was laughing one minute at the antics of the crazy mice or jolly, jesting Russian dancers, then oohing and aahing as a tiny ballerina balanced high atop her very tall, lithe male dance partner.

The lighting is a strong element in this production; it’s no exaggeration to say the lighting acts as another character, moving the action forward in blues and silvers. Another, technically-amazing standout: the famous Mother Matrushka’a big skirt, which gives “birth” to the Russian nesting dolls, is made of 25 yards of red jacquard, and the dancer who wears the 75-pound-costume, stands on a platform to make the character appear 15 feet tall. Definitely a highlight and a delight for all the children and adults who were in attendance during the Saturday matinee.

“The Nutcracker” is still the standard, go-to holiday classic, but this production is anything but “the usual.” It’s a pure, thrilling joy.

The Nutcracker continues at the Fox Theatre through Dec. 26. For tickets and information, visit