By Lily Allen-Duenas

The Nutcracker, featuring Orchestra Iowa and the Ballet Quad Cities, was at the Paramount Theatre this past weekend, December 6 and 7, 2014. They gave a weekend of holiday magic to Cedar Rapids. A holiday tradition for many, the Sunday afternoon performance that I attended captivated a near full-house audience.

The beautiful violins, violas, cellos, basses, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, and a bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion harp, and piano all created the extraordinary music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music. Orchestra Iowa gave life and light to the dancers through their cadences and crescendos. The music was perfectly on pointe — pun intended.

The set was comprised of enormous hand-painted canvases, which rotated between the Stahlbaum’s family home, the Land of Snow, and the Land of Sweets. Rendering each painting must have taken days. Impressive artistic talent was displayed with each painting, from perspective, to shading, to intricate detailing each canvas was a true work of art.

The ballet dancers enchanted the audience, weaving the wonderful story through their dancing, emotive gesticulations, and animated faces. The dancers were elegant storytellers that seamlessly wove the story around the stage. Caroline Cady as Clara Stahlbaum dazzled the audience with her charm and charisma. Hadley Green as the Rag Doll and Madeleine Gurney as the Ballerina Doll deserve special note for their incredible portrayal of stiff, mechanical dolls. Their translation of movement was inspired — giving energy and spirit to the lifeless. Tessa Moore as the Sugar Plum Fairy was the epitome of the word exquisite. Her graceful lines and fluidity of her motion was both refined and ethereal. Her cavalier, Alec Roth’s, unfaltering intent focus certainly arose admiration.

The battle of the Mouse King was also delightful. The costumes were engaging and amusing: the tiny children ballet dancers with their fuzzy mice-onseies and the lanky adult mice with their extravagantly strange mouse heads. The eerie and fanciful dramatic battle between the mice and the Nutcracker’s soldiers was fascinating to watch unravel. The battle led to the Nutcracker transforming into a handsome prince, danced by Corey Mangum, who was a powerful and commanding Nutcracker who exhibited laudable grace and strength.

The entire show from the Christmas party, to the mice, to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies was magical — a truly praiseworthy performance by Ballet Quad Cities and Orchestra Iowa that dazzled and ignited the imagination. The Nutcracker was elegant, exquisite, and enchanting.

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