On opening night of the Lawrence Arts Center's production of "A Kansas Nutcracker," the cast took its final bows to a standing ovation -- a much-deserved standing ovation. Directed by Ric Averill and Deb Bettinger, the musical ballet is topnotch from start to finish.
The show opens at a barn party in 1854 Kansas. The party is at the Drosselmeier home. Mr. Drosselmeier's one wish is that no one discuss slavery, temperance or abolition. As various groups of people show up at the party, including orphans, Delaware Indians and a family of Missouri ruffians, they perform delightful barn dances waiting for the arrival of Godfather Drosselmeier.
When the Godfather arrives, he surprises young Clara with an assortment of wind-up toys and her very own nutcracker. The large cast performing such well-choreographed dance numbers followed by the humorous yet flawless dancing by the toys is reason enough to see this show.
Averill and Bettinger did a genius job transferring this classical ballet to the Kansas setting. Bettinger also did an amazing job designing and executing dance for such a large and varied cast.
As the delightful barn party wears down and Clara falls asleep, the audience is treated to a breathtaking dance from the Snow Queen and Snow King, danced by Sarah Grunwaldt and Beau Hancock.
The second act features more delightful comedic moments as well dances from the cast. Be forewarned: Almost every scene is stolen by the children. Members of the children's chorus play everything from grasshoppers to snowflakes. It's almost impossible to take your eyes off the groups of aspiring ballerinas.
"A Kansas Nutcracker" is a wonderful retelling of the classic "Nutcracker" through a prairie lens.