Ballet Arizona Struggles to Find The Nutcracker Sweet Spot This Holiday Season

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There's a sweet spot during the opening scene of the second act, when young dancers dressed in elaborate gold angel garb seem to glide across the stage that's covered with rolling fog as if milling about heaven. Costumes, scenery, and lighting are beautiful and balanced -- but it's the exception rather than the rule.

Design elements during the first act, in which friends and family gather to celebrate Christmas, already betray this production's lack of cohesion. One set feels like a Charles Dickens storybook, another like an exaggerated modern-day cartoon complete with tree boughs resembling pickles rather than pines.

For much of the second act, the only set piece is the simple throne that holds Clara and her Prince. Towers of sheer curtains with subtle pastel designs flank each side of the stage, and a backdrop that resembles textbook images of the cosmos changes colors with each new dance performed in the land of sweets.

It's aesthetically jarring given the final scenes of the first act, which feature a black background punctuated by stars created with Swarovski crystals. It's the backdrop for what's meant to be falling snow but looks more like globs of glitter or bubbles being thrown down from on high. One act is over-the-top. The other underwhelming.

Both acts have the same design team: Sets by Carey Wong and Andersen, costumes by Fabio Toblini, and lighting by Michael Korsch.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble