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Posted: November 19, 2009

Warm your heart with “The Nutcracker”

The Colorado Ballet production creates magic for the holidays

Maria Martin

If names like Clara, Herr Drosselmeyer, the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy don't sound familiar, get thee to the Colorado Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" to warm that frozen heart.

"I think one of the ways we've successfully built on 'The Nutcracker' year after year is that it reflects the themes of the season," says Arthur Espinoza, now in his 11th year as general manager of the ballet.

"Those themes are family. Tradition. Celebrations. Gatherings. Especially in a rough economic time, we need to celebrate annual traditions, like the family going to the 'Nutcracker' It brings a sense of security to our hectic world.

"This year we built the theme around magic. We need magic now. And the Sugarplums are part of that magic."

Flashy words weren't part of the ad campaign, says Espinoza, who is in charge of marketing.

"We weren't looking for flashy words. This is a production that's will appeal to everyone, no matter what language they speak, what their income."

One television ad campaign, he says, used words like, "Hey, Sugarplum. What are you doing for the holidays?"

Sharon Wehner dances the prized part of the Sugarplum Fairy in many of the performances.

This is her 14th season with the company.

"'The Nutcracker' tells the story well. It's that feeling of magic that I love."

Wehner, who was trained on the West Coast but now lives in Denver, loves working with Denver Ballet because the shows offer a broad range of styles, and she loves the people she works with.

"For me, it never gets boring," Wehner says. "Your body might get tired, but it never gets mundane because you have to be at the top of your game. It's challenging."

Gil Boggs, artistic director of the company, says "The Nutcracker" is always strong in terms of sales. Even the economy, he says, hasn't affected revenue.

"It's classical, traditional and it's the perfect length," Boggs says. "Some companies drag on some of those first acts. We work to add touches of comedy, and we make sure there are no slow moments."

While Boggs notes that it's a challenge to make the classic fresh every year, there's a motto among all ballet dancers.

"We say, 'It's always someone's first 'Nutcracker'," he says with a chuckle.

"And I say one of the best perks of my job is that I make kids smile."

What: Colorado Ballet's "The Nutcracker"
When: Nov 28-Dec. 27. Go online for times and exact dates
Where: Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 950 13th St.
Tickets: $19-$149
Information: 303-837-8888 or coloradoballet.org

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Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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