By Scott Meeker
It's a story that has become synonymous with the Christmas season - a romantic dream in which a young girl embarks on a magical journey with a wooden nutcracker come to life.
But for the Moscow Ballet, tradition alone doesn't cut it when it comes to the annual touring production of "The Great Russian Nutcracker."
"Every year, we add new elements to the show," said Akiva Talmi, who has served as the show's producer for the past 14 years. "That's why it's the best ("Nutcracker" production) in the world."
When the ballet is staged at 8 p.m. Monday at Memorial Hall, audiences will be treated to a show that has evolved significantly since the last tour.
Twelve feet tall and sporting three heads and a 30-foot wingspan, the Rat King is one of the most majestic and complex new additions to the production, Talmi said.
"The Rat King is discovered in three steps," he said. "It is a huge, puppet cocoon when it comes to center stage. It then comes out wrapped in its wings. In the third stage, the wings unwrap and flap back and forth.
"It takes up the entire stage and takes four people to make it work."
Another new element this year is a Russian nesting doll designed as a Trojan horse.
"It appears at the end of Act II," Talmi said. "It's a puppet within a puppet. At center stage, it stops and Trojans keep coming out of it."
Also new for 2006 is a cannon that fires roses for peace when the Nutcracker visits the Land of Peace and Harmony.
"We're donating it to the White House when the tour is finished," Talmi joked.
The all-Russian cast will be fronted by Anatoli Emelianov, the show's artistic director and choreographer, who stars as the Nutcracker. The show features hand-painted backdrops, props and puppets that ballet coordinators spent more than six months assembling, Talmi said.
By Scott Meeker
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