HOUSTON - Three decades after one version of Sugar Plums danced into the hearts of Houstonians, a new production of The Nutcracker promises to entrance the city.
Houston Ballet's new incarnation of The Nutcracker premiered to the world Friday night.
"New sets, new costumes, new choreography and bringing it back to life in a way," said Connor Walsh, principal dancer with the Houston Ballet.
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Walsh took the stage as the Nutcracker Prince on opening night, taking Clara on her journey through the land of the sweets. "I hope that Houstonians will fall in love with this one just like last one," he said.
The Ballet's previous production, choreographed by former Artistic Director Ben Stevenson, was beloved by Houston audiences for 29 years. This year, current Artistic Director Stanton Welch is finally bringing his vision to life.
The new Nutcracker has opulent sets and gorgeous costumes, and is simply presented on a much larger scale. A bigger cast and newer technology bring a more elaborate experience, but Houston Ballet Executive Director Jim Nelson says the story is timeless.
"It still follows the exact storyline of The Nutcracker; the tree still grows, the snow still falls, Clara, Sugar Plum and the prince -- all the characters are represented," said Nelson.
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In the new production, the Christmas tree is larger than the stage can encompass. The snow scene is vibrant, with bursts of snow enveloping the dancers. Children are involved in just about every scene, and magical, lifelike animals are woven throughout the production. To call it grand would be an understatement.
"The Nutcracker is often the very first ballet that anyone sees, and so your first impression with our art form has to be spectacular," said Nelson.
"It's important to the community to reinvigorate the love affair with The Nutcracker," said Walsh, who has danced in The Nutcracker for more than 14 years. "It's really important for Houston Ballet, and for holiday traditions in this community."
The $5 million production is spectacular in every way. There are more than 30 performances throughout the holiday season.