The Facts

Crowds pack arts center for 'The Nutcracker'

By Anna Laura
Correspondent-Published December 28, 2003

The Festival Ballet of Greater Houston presented “The Nutcracker” to the Brazosport area Dec. 20 at The Center for Arts and Sciences.

Tickets to both the matinee and evening performances sold out in October, so the dancers played to standing-room only crowds.

The audience sat in the large theatre listening to Tchai-kovsky’s festive score while anxiously waiting for the afternoon performance to begin. The wait gave those unfamiliar with the story of “The Nutcracker” a chance to read the brief synopsis of Act I and II in the stage book.

The curtain opened to a Christmas Eve party at the home of the Stahlbaum family in Germany during the mid 1800s. Frau and Herr Stahlbaum, were welcoming guests arriving for the annual affair.

Toymaker and friend Herr Drosselmeyer arrives and presents a Nutcracker doll to the Stahlbaum’s daughter, Clara, played by Debra Nicole Barrera. Clara loves her new doll so much that she sneaks downstairs after everyone goes to bed to play with it.

She soon falls asleep holding the doll and begins a fantastic dream that sets the scene for the classic ballet. As the dream begins, Clara’s doll is missing. Everything, including the Christmas tree, grows out of proportion and she is suddenly surrounded by large mice.

Leading the mice is the King Rat, then the Nutcracker comes to Clara’s rescue and battles with the oversized rodent.

After a heated fight between the Prince’s soldiers and the mice, the King Rat is defeated and the Nutcracker turns into a prince. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince take a journey to the enchanted Snow Forest, where they meet the Snow Queen and Prince Zephyr.

During the brief intermission that followed Act I, the audience browsed the Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker Market and silent auction in the lobby.

The second act began in the Kingdom of the Sweets where Clara is welcomed by a band of angels. The angels introduced magical dolls representing Spain, China, Arabia and Russia.

Most of the dancers performed at least two different characters during the ballet, and some as many as four.

The curtain closes as Clara awakes under the tree on Christmas Day with her beloved Nutcracker doll and memories of her magical dream traveling through the Snow Forest and the Kingdom of the Sweets.

Everyone was treated to a reception afterwards, courtesy of the Junior Service League of Brazosport. Dancers joined audience members in the lobby for punch and cookies and signing stage books.

The Festival Ballet has been performing in and around Houston for eight years. According to Rayburn, “The Nutcracker” performances at The Center in Brazoria County are a new milestone for the dance company.

This year, the ballet gave three performances in The Woodlands Dec. 13 and 14 before the two presented at The Center. After Saturday’s evening ballet, Mandy Neal said, “It was a very exciting week for everyone, but now we are all really tired.”

Now, the dancers will be preparing for the Festival Ballet’s “Alice in Wonderland” in June. For more information, go to