Shumka’s Nutcracker – an exhilarating production

Shumka perform at the Nutcracker Photo by Marc J Chalifoux

Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau.

Having firmly established itself as a holiday classic, Shumka’s Nutcracker returned to the Northern Jubilee Auditorium stage for three exhilarating performances (two matinees and one evening show) December 14-15.

This luxurious and uniquely powerful production features ballet, folk dance, and character dance in a celebration of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, adding a Ukrainian flavour, reflective of the composer’s own ethnic roots, to the presentation.

The two leading stars, Tetyana Lozova as Clara and Yaroslav Tkachuk as the Prince, both of the Kyiv Ballet, returned for the fifth time this year, with Denys Tyrchak, formerly of Virsky, and now with the Kyiv Ballet taking over the third major role of the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeier, who gifts the Nutcracker/Prince to Clara.

Two new additions from the Kyiv Ballet were Oleksandr Shapolov and Anri Iwasaki, originally from Japan.

Former Shumka Dancer Jeffrey Mortenstern, who played Clara’s brother, the impish Fritz, in past years was shooting a television series this year and unable to be in the show. His spot was taken over by Shumka’s Nic Pacholok, who fit in perfectly, delighting the audience with his hilarious antics and acrobatic feats.

Along with Shumka, and the Kyiv Ballet, the production also included dancers from the Shumka School of Dance, who filled the roles of children and mice, Londyn and Olivia Nachtigal from the Mattierin School of Irish Dance, as well as Clara’s Dream Choir. Under the direction of Susan Romaniuk (Zinchuk) this ensemble, which is made up of singers from local choirs including the Ukrainian Dnipro Enselmble, Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton, Axios, Kapella Kyrie and Viter Ukrainian Folk Choir, enhanced the production with their powerful vocals and unique arrangements.

Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s beloved tale The Nutcracker, and set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic composition, the ballet begins when the young girl receives a Nutcracker doll from her godfather, Dr. Drosselmeier one Christmas Eve. As the clock in the Staulbaum home strikes midnight, the Nutcracker springs to life in a battle against the Mouse King, who corners him in a duel. Clara comes to the Nutcracker’s aid and defeats the Mouse King by pulling off his tail. The spell broken, the Nutcracker transforms into a handsome Prince. As a gesture of his gratitude, the Prince takes Clara on a magical journey, where they meet a cast of unforgettable characters — elegant Spanish dancers, step-dancing Irish ones, a mysterious Arabian girl and a merry Chinese trio delight. A dazzling Ukrainian Hopak complete with high kicking Cossacks is presented in a most spectacular fashion. Soon, the Prince asks Clara to join him in a romantic and lyrical pas de deux.

Suddenly, Clara is back in her family’s parlour cradling her Nutcracker, realizing that the wonderful trip was but a fantasy. But then Drosselmeier visit bringing with him his young nephew who bears a striking resemblance to the Prince.

The production, which featured exquisite choreography met with thunderous applause by the appreciative audience who gave the performers a rousing standing ovation.