The Kansas City Ballet is about to present 21 performances of “The Nutcracker” Dec. 7-24 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and it’s just gotten the best possible warm-up: a seven-day run at one of the nation’s most prestigious theaters, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
It was the Kennedy Center that contacted the Kansas City Ballet about the possibility of a Washington run, said Devon Carney, the ballet’s artistic director and choreographer of “The Nutcracker.”
“The Kennedy Center heard about us and our quality and decided to give us the invite, which I’m thrilled about,” Carney said. “The best possible way to go out on the road is because somebody says ‘We want you.’ If this goes well, we might get invited back a couple of years from now.”
By all accounts, it’s going very well indeed. Washington dance critics are loving this three-year-old, multi-million dollar production. The Washington Post says it “oozed charm.” DC Metro Arts, a D.C. arts website, called it “stunning and opulent” and says it “is sure to dazzle those who have seen other productions and enchant those who are seeing it for the first time.”
Carney says he’s learned a lot from dancing in and observing other productions of “The Nutcracker.” He thinks Kansas City’s version is distinctive because it maintains a balance of entertaining children and keeping adults interested.
“Some people say ‘Act I is for the children, and Act II is for the adults,’” Carney said. “For me, that’s not good. It’s important everybody’s having a fun, entertaining time from the time the curtain goes up to the end. If you make it too kiddie and goofy and silly, then you lose the adults. I believe our production gives a chance for everyone to just sit back and take a journey through the eyes of a child and, hopefully, rediscover a bit of your childlike heart.”
Carney also credits a large part of his production’s success to the stunning fairy tale sets by acclaimed French designer Alain Vaës and the complementary costumes by Holly Hynes.
“They are incredible, three-dimensional, colorful sets done by a world-renowned set designer,” he said. “And Holly's gorgeous costumes are amazing. When you bring top quality in all aspects, that’s when you’re going to have a show that distinguishes itself.”
Dec. 7 to 24. Kaufman Center’s Muriel Kauffman Theatre. $34-$134. 816-931-8993 or kcballet.org.
Musica Vocale: St. Nicholas Cantata
On the evening of Dec. 5, many parts of Europe and even some households in the United States await the arrival of St. Nicholas, who brings small gifts, candy and fruit to good children in anticipation of his feast day on Dec. 6. It’s a sort of sneak preview of Christmas.
Musica Vocale, led by Arnold Epley, and the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Bruce Sorrell, will deliver their own bag of goodies when they perform Benjamin Britten’s St. Nicholas Cantata Dec. 5 at Old Mission United Methodist Church.
Britten’s cantata is an unusual and delightful alternative to regular holiday fare. It’s a telling of St. Nicholas’ life, which includes many of his miracles, like his restoration to life of three boys who were chopped up and pickled during a time of famine by an evil butcher. Festive music by Bach and Vivaldi will fill out the concert, which will be lit by candlelight.
7:30 p.m. Dec. 5. Old Mission United Methodist Church, 5519 State Park Road, Fairway. 816-235-6222 or kcchamberorchestra.org.
A Christmas Gathering: Danú and the Kansas City Chorale
The acclaimed Irish ensemble Danú will present “A Christmas Gathering” Dec. 9 at Yardley Hall. The concert, presented by the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College, will feature traditional Irish music for the holidays, like carols for Wren’s Day, Dec. 26. In many Irish villages, the day after Christmas, “wrenboys,” dressed in masks and straw suits, carry a caged wren from door-to-door while singing special carols and asking for “a penny or tuppence.”
The Kansas City Chorale, conducted by Charles Bruffy, will join Danú for a few numbers. In recent years, Bruffy has been steeping himself in the choral music and customs of Ireland. His insights will prove useful in this concert, which celebrates traditions stretching back to the Druids.
8 p.m. Dec. 9. Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. $23-$78. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/theseries.
Kansas City Chorale — The Chorale celebrates the season!
The Kansas City Chorale will present its own Christmas concerts Dec. 3 at the 1900 Building and Dec. 8 at Rolling Hills Church. There’ll be a touch of the Irish in these concerts, too, with the Chorale performing Philip Stopford’s Celtic Christmas. There also will be music by Mendelssohn and Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo and the ethereal Motets for Christmas by Francis Poulenc.
2 p.m. Dec. 3. at the 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission, and 7:30 pm Dec. 8 at Rolling Hills Church, 9300 Nall Ave., Overland Park. $10-$30. 816-235-6222 or kcchorale.org.
Kansas City Symphony — Handel’s Messiah
For many music lovers, it just isn’t Christmas without Handel’s “Messiah.” The Kansas City Symphony and Chorus, conducted by Matthew Halls, will present Handel’s majestic oratorio Dec. 8 to 10 at Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Four excellent soloists are joining the Symphony for the performance: soprano Kiera Duffy, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy, tenor Dann Coakwell and baritone Morgan Smith.
Charles Bruffy, who is prepping the Kansas City Symphony Chorus, should get an extra treat from Santa for all of his hard work this holiday season.
7 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9 and 2 p.m. Dec. 10. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $30-$75. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.
You can reach Patrick Neas at email@example.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at facebook.com/kcartsbeat.