Chicago Theatre Review
A Family Holiday Treat
The Nutcracker – Marriott
With Christmas fast approaching, Marriott’s Theatre for Young Audiences brings back one of its holiday favorites. Based upon E. T. A. Hoffmann’s children’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” which in turn inspired Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s world famous ballet suite, Marc Robin has created a 60-minute play with music and dance that captures the magic of both pieces.
The story opens on Christmas Eve in the Victorian home of youngsters Marie and her mischievous brother Fritz. Just as dinner is being served, their Uncle Drosselmeyer arrives surprising them with gifts, including a beautiful Nutcracker, which Fritz immediately breaks. After he’s mended Marie falls asleep next to her cherished Nutcracker. She dreams that all the Christmas toys have come to life and a battle ensues between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King over possession of a magical crown. Their journey takes Marie and her new friends to Candy Land, through the Snowflake Forest and to the Kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy. After the crown is rightly restored to the Nutcracker, Marie awakens to find that her prince looks very much like the new boy next door, and young audiences will be assured that the magic will continue.
Before the show begins George Keating serves as the play’s Master of Ceremonies and then leads the audience through a skillfully-moderated question and answer talk-back afterwards. But as both Marie’s selfish brother Fritz and as the nasty, evil Mouse King, Keating is the runaway star of this production. Fierce comic timing, expert musical talent plus a definite comfort interacting with audiences makes Mr. Keating a true favorite. Beautiful, talented Dara Cameron, so popular in Marriott’s main stage productions, is warm and charming as Marie. Devin DeSantis shines as the handsome Nutcracker prince and Holly Stauder nearly steals the show as an Ethel Merman/Bette Midler-inspired Sugar Plum Fairy.
This production is made even more magical by Nancy Missimi’s gorgeous, imaginative costumes and Patti Garwood’s richly orchestrated accompaniment. It features a cast of truly talented triple threats and a script that’s faithful to the original ballet while incorporating plenty of contemporary humor. Director/choreographer Matt Raftery has kept his production fast-paced, which will appeal to the youngest audiences. Raftery’s choreography, much of which is danced to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score, draws upon the classical training of his cast.
Audiences looking for a colorful, musical holiday treat that’s perfect for the whole family should look no further than Lincolnshire. A lovely, magical treat that will appeal to every family member is waiting just off Milwaukee Road. This classic holiday story comes to life with renewed enchantment and energy proving it will become a continued favorite for new generations of theatre goers.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented Nov. 8-Dec. 28 by Marriott’s Theatre for Young Audiences, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 847-634-0200 or by visiting www.MarriottTheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found at www.theatreinchicago.com.