The Sarasota Ballet’s John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker returned this year and reminded Sarasotans why it's the perfect holiday show.
| 7:00 a.m. December 20, 2017
Arts + Entertainment
The Sarasota Holiday Parade, enormous gingerbread creations at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, and an endless display of twinkling lights at University Town Center are all in full swing. The holidays are indeed upon us in Sarasota. Not yet an annual tradition, but returning this year was the Sarasota Ballet’s “John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker” this past weekend at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
An absolute feast for the eyes, Choreographer Matthew Hart’s version premiered in 2012 and is more refined every time it’s performed. His Sarasota spin on the classic Christmas story combines the history of John and Mable Ringling with the traditional story by E.T.A Hoffman. Paired with breathtaking sets and costumes by Peter Docherty and lighting design by Aaron Muhl, this performance is a true gift for our city.
Act 1 is set in 1920s New York, where Clara and her family are visiting for the holidays. At the family’s lavish Christmas Eve hotel party, they are introduced to John Ringling and his nephew, John Ringling North. Immediately fascinated by John Ringling North, Clara is delighted to travel to the circus’s winter home in Sarasota. Before she can make it there, however, she encounters The Mouse King and several “gangster” mice who battle with her beloved Nutcracker and clowns. The spirit of Mable Ringling comes to Clara’s rescue and transforms the Nutcracker into John Ringling North. They travel through a sparkling snowstorm complete with a Rockette-style kick line and finally end up on the train to Sarasota. Act 2 is a fabulous circus celebration with acrobats, zebras, tightrope performers and finally the grand pas de deux with the trapeze stars, Sugar and Prince.
Although the storyline, sets, costumes, lighting and special effects are all more involved than most of the Sarasota Ballet performances, the dancers are still the highlight of the evening. Ryoko Sadoshima embodied everything Clara should be. She was curious, charming and genuine all while showcasing polished technique and flawless lines. Logan Learned was a cool, calm John Ringling North and transformed effortlessly into the dynamic ringmaster in Act 2. Kate Honea and Lucas Erni, who have quickly become the couple to watch this season, brought down the house as Sugar and Prince. Other standouts were newcomer Giorgia Leonardi as Mouse King’s Mole and Ivan Duarte as Clara’s brother, Fritz. Credit must be given to the dancers who performed more than three different roles Friday evening including Kristianne Kleine, Ellen Overstreet and Amy Wood.
Live music made the production even sweeter. The recognizable Tchaikovsky score was delivered beautifully by the Sarasota Orchestra under the direction of Conductor Andrew Lane.
Hopefully, Director Iain Webb will recognize the roaring applause and standing ovation and make “John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker” a tradition we can all put on our yearly holiday wish list.