As we inch closer to Christmas, many families head to the theater to watch the beautiful concoction of dance and music that is The Nutcracker. However, families with younger children may be faced with a challenge. How do you get the little one(s) to sit through a two hour ballet? Caroline Calouche‘s Clara’s Trip not only provides a solution to that conundrum, but does so with such delightful silliness and excellent technical execution that will thrill parents as well. This production is a wonderfully fresh iteration of the classic Nutcracker. The story follows Clara, an excitable albeit clumsy dancer. After suffering a fall while dancing at a holiday party, Clara is taken to the doctor. A doctor and nurse, with questionable skill, declare her ankle is broken. She is seated to rest by her dear friends. In her repose, she begins to dream. Through cirque and dance, vividly colored costumes, and a new retelling of the story, this modern twist is most welcome and certainly a hit among younger audiences (or perhaps those who’ve attended The Nutcracker a few too many times).

The contemporary feel of the production was set before the curtain opened, as modern covers of holiday classics played while the audience entered. Snowflakes were projected on the grand drape, adding a touch of whimsy to the stage. Once the house darkened, Calouche herself delivered the curtain speech. Arguably the best bit of the night began before the curtain was even lifted. As is tradition for Clara’s Trip, the company brings onstage an unsuspecting bartender from the house to participate in the first act. Last night’s victim was Calouche’s neighbor. Ever the good sport, his enthusiastic participation brought many laughs to the performance, from children and parents alike.

Despite the fun comedic moments Clara’s Trip has to offer, the astonishing grace and skill of its performers cannot go unmentioned. This is truly visible beginning at the “Snow” pas de deux between Clara (Zoe Flowers) and Beau (Avi Wolf Borouchoff). Clara and Beau’s precision as they effortlessly moved from leap to leap was mesmerizing. But perhaps the most enchanting part of Act I was the “Snow” section. Here, three members of the company performed an aerial dance as others danced onstage. The sight in cool white was visually stunning, as imitation snow fluttered down onto the performers.

Act II followed suit, with even more exciting acrobatics as a circus was portrayed onstage. The members of the circus were fish, monkeys, bracelets, and peppermints. These groups performed using aerial hoops and silks, hoops, and their own bodies. Each group elicited roaring applause from the audience, flowing from one pose to the next. However, a most notable acrobatic performance was that of Mr. and Mrs. Flowers (Connor Dealy and Abbie Rooney). Their trapeze bar section was breathtaking, literally. The audience collectively gasped as Rooney was suspended by her ankle from the bar, held only by Dealy’s arm. It was one of many exciting and beautiful moments of the night. The show ends with each of the members of Clara’s dream waving goodbye to her, as she continues to sleep in her comfy chair…and orthopedic boot.

Clara’s Trip makes for an exhilaratingly fun night for families of all ages. Caroline Calouche & Co. is a nonprofit organization based in Charlotte, NC. This performance is not only a great family outing, but a wonderful way to support the local arts community.

Clara’s Trip continues at the Booth Playhouse through December 19th. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.