O come, all ye faithless: Behold a “Nutcracker” to banish ghosts of sugar-plum hangovers past. Ballet West’s production, which opened Wednesday at the Kennedy Center, fairly bursts with comfort and joy.
Make that joys — such as a dancing bear, a turbaned magician who turns the Arabian dance into a vintage disappearing act for his sinuous assistant and, most especially, a white-glove treatment of the Tchaikovsky score.
This bright-spirited production, from Salt Lake City’s exceedingly handsome ballet company, is sanctified by history, and deservedly so. Choreographed by Willam Christensen in 1944, it was America’s first full-length “Nutcracker” ever. Yes, folks, imagine a day when no one knew the story of young Clara and the transformative gift from her godfather, when its music did not plink from every shopping mall. Then Christensen’s ballet comes along, with its domestic charms and wartime uplift, and it’s no wonder that eventually, the “Nutcracker” phenomenon spread like a virus. If only the ensuing plethora had hewn to Christensen’s unerring feeling for art as well as entertainment.