“The Nutcracker” – Ballet Arizona & “A Christmas Story” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ December 12, 2011


Today, I’m reviewing two holiday shows, one new and one celebrating its 26th anniversary.  Phoenix Theatre is mounting a stage version of the popular 1983 film, “A Christmas Story,” and Ballet Arizona is presenting its annual “The Nutcracker.”   “The Nutcracker” is the Valley’s best holiday show and let’s hope “A Christmas Story” doesn’t become an annual Phoenix Theatre holiday tradition.

Ballet Arizona, Symphony Hall
Phoenix, AZ

If you want spectacle, grandeur, beauty, and gorgeous music with your holiday entertainment, you can’t go wrong with “The Nutcracker.”  The production’s brilliant perfection gets better every year from stunning sets, elaborate costumes, masterful playing of Tchaikovsky’s lushly melodic score by the Phoenix Symphony’s, superb Ballet Arizona dancing augmented by accomplished student dancers, but most to Ib Andersen’s magnificent choreography and concept, “The Nutcracker” is a joyous holiday winner.

Solo and ensemble dancing achieves the ultimate precision and the student dancers shine.  On opening night some dancing was breathtaking especially Jillian Barrell’s Sugar Plum Fairy and Gleidson Vasconcelos’ Cavalier.  Casts rotate at the many performances so endless combinations occur.  Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker” is in the same leagues as New York and San Francisco’s prestigious holiday productions.

The familiar story about Clara’s Christmas Eve dream, stimulated by her nutcracker gift, comes to dramatic life in the first act and is topped in the second act with the radiant specialty dances.  Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker” continues through December 24.  For tickets, call the Ballet Arizona box office at 602-381-1096 or order tickets online at www.balletaz.org.

Grade: A



Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

The less said about the unfortunately hokey “A Christmas Story” script and the sloppy Phoenix Theatre production the better because this tired and dull stage treatment lacks the film’s magic.  The audience travels on young Ralphie’s holiday journey during the ‘40s to get a BB gun for Christmas.  The story should be funny and provide a nice historical glimpse into what the holidays were like in these simpler times.  Author Jean Shepard narrated the film’s story but the on stage Narrator, weakly played by Harold Dixon, doesn’t invite audiences welcomely into the adventure.  Pasha Yamotahari’s lackluster staging, dark sets, and blah costumes spark no holiday spirit and don’t make audiences care much about Ralphie.  Even the pros that play Ralphie’s parents, Dion Johnson and Debby Rosenthal, can’t save this still born production and the children actors are mediocre at best.

Audiences seemed lukewarm at the performance I attended.  For some reason, “A Christmas Story” has been extended to December 24.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: D