CEDAR RAPIDS -- "The Nutcracker" is a shimmering, triumphant pas de deux for Orchestra Iowa and Ballet Quad Cities. This stunning new holiday collaboration opened to cheers, shouts, multiple bursts of applause throughout and an instant standing ovation Saturday afternoon (12/1) at the Paramount Theatre. Organizers expect at least 4,000 people to see the production this weekend. A few seats were empty for the opening matinee. Larger crowds were expected for the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances, but some tickets remain for each. To check for availability, go to www.paramounttheatrecr.com The production will move to the Quad Cities Dec. 8 and 9, with three performances at the Adler Theatre in Davenport. "Gorgeous" is the predominant declaration throughout my notes, punctuated with several "magnificents." This is a top-flight production, with the same crispness and musicality we expect from Orchestra Iowa, made all the more glorious by the marvelous professional ballet troupe from the Quad Cities. Local children, perfectly rehearsed by Carol Rezabek, charmed the audience as scampering mice, regal angels, colorful French clowns, toy soldiers and party guests. Angelic voices from the orchestra’s young Discovery Chorus, directed by Amy Hanisch, added crystalline glow to the enchanting Land of Snow.
The scenery was gorgeous, from the festive 19th century decor of Clara's family home dominating the first act, to the exotic, intricate backdrop for the Land of the Sweets in the second act. The costumes were gorgeous, as well, no doubt sending baby ballerinas home dreaming of tutus, ball gowns, princes and tiaras. The dancers were nothing short of magnificent. Emily Kate Long was all youthful exuberance as Clara, the girl who receives a nutcracker from her mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer (played with aplomb by local celebrity Scott Schulte, an accomplished actor who can hold his own on the dance floor, too). As glorious as Long is playing Clara, she is utterly breathtaking dancing the pas de deux with her prince, Jacob Lyon, near the end of the production. The sheer majesty of their fluid lines, lifts, leaps and spins is echoed throughout the show, by all of the dancers, from the mighty Russians to the athletic, acrobatic Arabian contortionists. Courtney Lyon's choreography is as imaginative as it is breathtaking to behold. This is a magnificent marriage of artistry between two highly professional organizations, just meant to make the Paramount Theatre their home. They will team up again in April for "Cinderella." Do not miss out. ARTS EXTRA What: "The Nutcracker" ballet Where: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2 Tickets: At the door, (319) 366-8203, 1-(800) 369-TUNE or Paramounttheatrecr.com Information: Paramounttheatrecr.com