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Sugar plums and rat traps

Capital Ballet Theatre mounts 37th 'Nutcracker'


Everybody acts like they are tired of “The Nutcracker,” but let the smallest snippet of Tchaikovsky’s magical ballet waft into an elevator and the hardest cases crack a sugar-plum-eating grin.

Besides, it’s not that hard to freshen up the long-lived holiday classic. Lansing’s method is to kill the Rat King a different way each year.

The annual production by the Capital Ballet Theatre is now in its 37th year of non-repeating rat extermination.

“Nothing too terribly violent,” spokeswoman Chanin Heise reassured me. “One year, they stabbed him with a sword. Another year, he ended in his boxer shorts, with hair flying everywhere.”

And that killed him?

“Well, he exploded.”

The fun of the Capital Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” besides the 36 ways it has already found to kill the Rat King, is its ever-evolving panoply of sights, sounds and movements.

The show features young dancers of all ages and skill levels, from bouncing 8-yearolds (called “little guest dancers”) wearing ballet flats to graceful 18-year-old ballerinas who dance en pointe for two solid hours in the classic mold.

“The older girls log quite a few hours on their toes and go through a pair of shoes a show,” Heise said.

Sunday was the troupe’s last day of rehearsal at its Old Town studio. The crew moved the show into the Wharton Center for rehearsals Monday, complete with an impressive flotilla of scenery and costumes, all crafted by volunteers. After a dress rehearsal the day before Thanksgiving, the company will take Thanksgiving off to fuel up for the weekend’s performances. Monday has been set aside for a reducedrate community outreach show for schools, senior centers, home schooled kids and others “who may not have access to see it otherwise,” Heise said.

The music of Tchaikovsky is the ballet’s perennial draw, but the production sneaks in cues from a dozen other composers, from Beethoven and Dvorak to a couple of heavenly melodies by “Giselle” composer Adolphe Adam.

Besides the classic choreography, the production is crammed with color and bustle, from villagers running around in the town square to a Christmas party at heroine Clara’s house with lots of little girls in big long dresses.

At the party, Clara nods off and drifts to the land of sleep, where a series of fantastic scenes appears before her eyes.

That’s where the action and artistry really kick in. From then on, it’s one delightful dance after another, choreographed by artistic director Gregory George and guided by ballet mistress Ela Alabuszew-Kutek.

Grand Ledge senior Tara Fedewa plays the principal role of Sugar Plum Fairy, with Haley Rosendale of Holt as Clara and Eliana Jahjah of Lansing as Fritz.

How will the Rat King meet his demise this year?

“You have to come to the show,” Heise said slyly.

The Nutcracker Capitol Ballet Theater

7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Nov. 24-25 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 26 $18-28 1-800-Wharton


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