CultureElegance and jazz intersect in 'Sugar Hill: The Ellington Strayhorn Nutcracker'

Elegance and jazz intersect in ‘Sugar Hill: The Ellington Strayhorn Nutcracker’

Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker is a true masterpiece that seamlessly blends the elegance of classical ballet with the vivacious spirit of jazz, creating an unforgettable and enchanting experience from the moment the curtain rises.
Jessica Swan’s concept and libretto breathe new life into a holiday classic under the direction of Joshua BergasseThe production exudes an air of elegant coolness that immediately draws the audience in. The collaboration between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, intertwining classical Nutcracker melodies with the infectious energy of jazz,  distinguished. The show effortlessly transports viewers to a bygone era while infusing it with a modern, jazzy, fun, and energetic twist.
Alicia Mae Holloway’s portrayal of Lena is a standout performance, bringing her character to life with remarkable grace and childlike innocence. As Lena finds her rhythm and freedom on stage, she becomes the heart and soul of the production. Her delicate and ethereal movements create an illusion of floating on air, leaving a profound and lasting impression on the audience’s hearts.
Alicia Mae Holloway as Lena (Photo Credit: Michelle Reid)
The big band arrangements are a true spectacle, showcasing the splendor and magnificence of jazz in all its glory. The precision and passion with which the musicians deliver each note fill the theater with a rich tapestry of sound, immersing the audience in the brilliance of the music.
What truly sets Sugar Hill apart are its funk-infused arrangements that bring a contemporary edge to the classic Nutcracker melodies. The bass-bottomed heart of the music keeps the audience grooving throughout the performance, and the swing dance sequences are a visual treat, capturing the spirit of an era when swing dancing reigned supreme.
The choice to set the show in Harlem adds a layer of historical significance to the performance, paying tribute to a time when the neighborhood was a vibrant hub of cultural innovation and artistic expression. The depiction of Harlem during its heyday beautifully honors the rich heritage of the community.
One particularly outstanding scene is “No Jazz Allowed” in Scene 1, where opulence takes center stage. The guests, dressed to the nines in their ball gowns and tuxedos, sparkle under the lights. This visual feast harks back to a time when a night on the town was a truly special affair, showcasing the attention to detail and dedication of the production team.
Muata Langley (Photo credit: Michelle Reid)
In addition to the traditional ballet elements, Sugar Hill incorporates a diverse range of dance styles, including acrobatic ballet, hip-hop, tap dancing, African dance, and swing dancing. This fusion of dance forms adds depth and variety to the performance, showcasing the rich diversity of talent and influences that defined Harlem during the Jazz Age.
Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker is a breathtaking and unforgettable production that should not be missed. Its elegant coolness, distinguished performances, and historic backdrop pay homage to an era when jazz and dance were at the heart of Harlem’s cultural renaissance. It’s a holiday tradition that captures the magic of the season and the timeless appeal of jazz, making it a must-see for audiences of all ages. Don’t miss the chance to experience the splendor of Sugar Hill and be transported to a world of music and dance that will leave you utterly spellbound.
This is the only Nutcracker you need to see, it is amazing.
Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker runs through December 30, 2023 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.

Source: Rolling Out


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