Nutcracker season is upon us. The Kennedy Center has taken to presenting its sumptuous performances of the Tchaikovsky favorite over Thanksgiving weekend, with a different American company invited each year in a pleasing rotation of different productions. 

This year, Utah’s Ballet West made its fourth trip to the Opera House with its storybook staging, based on the first complete Nutcracker in the United States, choreographed by Willam F. Christensen.

Seen at the Sunday matinee performance, this visit offered a second chance to take in the $3 million renovation of this beloved ballet from a few years ago, last seen in Washington in 2018. The Victorian-era costumes (designed by David Heuvel) still look lavish and colorful, especially the vivid dreamscapes of the Act II divertissement. Updated projections (credited to Mike Tutaj and Paul Deziel) play tricks on the viewer, seeming like painted sets that then move with curls of smoke and other effects on scrims. A puppet show even introduces the second act.

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