After a year online, the big, fluffy mice are back, not to mention scores of professional and student performers, offering in-person audiences a chance to experience another highly entertaining Maine State Ballet production of “The Nutcracker.”

The famous story of the young girl whose gift of a nutcracker sets her on a magical journey, from a houseful of animated toys to a glistening Christmas Tree Forest and a Palace of Sweets, is told through slapstick, pantomime and, above all, glorious dance.

The many young viewers at the opening performance were quietly enthralled with the show, particularly when they could see their peers engaging in the early Christmas Party scene and later in several spectacular ensemble moments.

Missing from this 45th annual Maine State Ballet production are the live orchestra and vocal chorus that have added sweep to the proceedings in previous years. Recorded Tchaikovsky, though, is still stirring, especially when the composer’s familiar lyrical strains are visually developed in choreography by Maine State Ballet’s Linda MacArthur Miele (with a nod to the great George Balanchine).

Trevor Seymour and Emma Davis as the Prince and Clara in Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”

Several lead roles will be shared during the brief run of this production. At the opening performance, young veteran company member Emma Davis took the role of Clara, who grows up just a little as she travels with her Prince (Trevor Seymour) after his cadre of toy soldiers have vanquished those invasive but ever cute mice. Davis’s partnering with Seymour created the requisite sense of wonder and added just a touch of the radiance of a first romance.

After boisterous and increasingly imaginative opening scenes, Act I closes with a shimmering “Dance of the Snowflakes,” a gorgeous moment with special effects of falling snow and subtle lighting by David Herrman adding extra dazzle to the dancing.

The costumes by Gail Csoboth are amazingly detailed and emphasize both elegance and ethnic touches emerging from the choreography of the various divertissement of Act II. These passages were uniformly entertaining with several dance soloists standing out in brief, focused moments at center stage.

Jessica Bartlett sweetened an appearance of “Chocolate from Spain” with some well-executed turns. A sinuous Adrienne Pelletier drew oohs and aahs from the crowd as she partnered with Glenn Davis in an eye-opening “Coffee from Arabia.”  Caitlin Bodlovick, as Mother Ginger, tried hard not to be upstaged by her “Little Ribbon Candies.” And Elizabeth Chadbourne enchantingly led the “Marzipan Shepherdesses.”

The finale of Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”

Arie Eiten’s “Russian Cossack” whirled and leapt around an encouraging band of followers while Rhiannon Pelletier was a flowing Dew Drop for the “Waltz of the Flowers.” Julia Lopez and Michael Hamilton, as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, put the final elegant touch on the performance with their “Grand Pas de Deux” reaching toward a delicate synthesis of sensitive partnering.

As tiny Reindeer drew Clara finally away, the curtain came down on yet another uplifting production of the annual holiday treat from the Maine State Ballet.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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