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The Yorkville Nutcracker

Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla

Presented by Dances Patrelle, at The Kaye Playhouse, 695 Park Ave., NYC, Dec. 8-10.

Charmingly conceived and choreographed by Francis Patrelle, "The Yorkville Nutcracker" is a sportive reworking of the classic Christmastime ballet, presented at The Kaye Playhouse. Set in New York City in 1895, the first-act party is held in Gracie Mansion and is peopled by an historically accurate cast of characters, including Teddy Roosevelt (then head of New York's Police Board) and an assemblage of international diplomats and their families. The ballet's famous snow scene here takes place on a pond in Central Park in front of the Dakota building, and the magic sleigh transports the children to the Crystal Palace at the Bronx Botanical Gardens where they savor the traditional array of divertissements.

Though thoroughly gratifying for adults, Patrelle's "Nutcracker" is child-centered. Characterized throughout by innocence and simplicity, it offers multitudinous performing opportunities for children (adorably costumed by Rita B. Watson) and concludes with a terrific post-performance educational session in which kids from the audience ask questions and are invited on stage to learn sections of the choreography.

Played in front of Gillian Bradshaw-Smith's scrumptiously colorful backdrops, this fast-paced production, danced to a recording of the beloved Tchaikovsky score, delivered two hours of easy pleasure.

The dancing honors go to Karen Lynch who, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, demonstrated expert adage technique. She lusciously carved her legs through the space with great care and respect for the actions, illuminating the full pathways of the choreography in all its dimensions. Amy Claugus made a perfectly peppy Dewdrop, darting amidst the admirably synchronized corps of waltzing flowers. Snow Queen Heather Hawk danced quite capably, executing remarkably confident pirouettes, but conjured no aesthetic allure. Jill Schulster, however, captured our hearts as a curvaceous, bounding Snowball, while Liza Eliano was winning as the ballet's pivotal little girl.

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