Archive for Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kansas City Connection: The debut of KC Ballet’s new ‘Nutcracker’ and other family activities

December 13, 2015

Audiences in Kansas City got their first peek at the Kansas City Ballet’s bold new production of “The Nutcracker” last week, and the opening performance was met by spontaneous applause and cheers of delight. The massive redesign, led by artistic director Devon Carney, brings a visually stunning overhaul to the classic ballet, with new choreography, costumes and set designs.

Highlights include the light effects by Trad Burns, the live score by the Kansas City Symphony and the more whimsical than sinister take on toymaker Drosselmeyer, performed by Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye. My daughter’s favorite part were the mice, who by her estimation “were very, very silly.” Tickets are still available for several performances at "The Nutcracker" runs through Dec. 24 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The biggest Christmas attraction for kids this week is the free Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Train, at Union Station from Dec. 16-20, which includes actual decorated train cars children can board and walk through. In Union Station’s grand hall, a miniature train takes young children on a loop around a small holiday village for $5 per ride (free to members).

From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, families can also check out Whoville Holidays at the City Market, which features crafts, ornaments and an audience with The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who.

Another fun stop for families this month is the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, located on the UMKC campus at 5235 Oak St.

The museum’s 9-foot-tall dollhouse is currently decked out for the holidays, and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, the museum’s Tureman Education Center will be visited by Saint Nicholas, as professional storyteller Jim “Two Crows” Wallen presents interactive tales of Old Saint Nick. Next Sunday, Dec. 20, traditional holiday music will be performed by the group Simple Strings from 1 to 4 p.m. Both events are included in regular museum admission, which is $5 for ages 5 and up. Oh, and don’t miss the 7-foot-tall bear in the Santa hat. Though I doubt you could miss him if you tried.

Thomas Restaurant

For the past decade, Thomas Restaurant has been a classy but not stuffy option for happy hour, dinner or a glass of wine on the rooftop patio. But my favorite visits to this bistro at 1815 W. 39th St. have been weeknights just after dinner, when bartender Aaron Branstetter and resident musician Vince Cook combine talents to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a friendlier, less expensive New York City piano bar.

The winter cocktails at Thomas run the gamut from light and refreshing to dark and robust, with more martini options than you can shake a cocktail sword at, and Cook has a knack for turning even the most cloying pop tunes into understated, emotionally resonant ballads. The menu items are inventive without being needlessly complex, and the small plates are a good happy hour or late-night option. Thomas is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, with live music Tuesday through Saturday evenings. Visit for a full menu. Heirloom Bakery

When word first got out about the delicious Pop-Tart-like treats made from scratch by Heirloom Bakery — first available at the Brookside Farmers Market, and later at its brick-and-mortar space at 63rd and Oak — competition was fierce. Months later, the rustic, modern bakery still draws a crowd to sample the many pastries, freshly baked breads, muffins, cookies, sandwiches or coffee drinks served by owners Scott and Kate Meinke and their staff.

I finally got to sample one of the "pop-tarts" last week, and could immediately taste what the fuss was all about. It was soft and flaky, with a generous pocket of apple filling and a vanilla and sprinkle of frosting that tasted like a far superior version of the Little Debbie Snack Cakes I used to devour on the school bus.

Heirloom’s holiday menu includes specialty pies such as cranberry pear crumble, honey apple thyme and bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, as well as gingerbread cookies and stollen loaf, which includes dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, almonds and brandy baked into its rich, leavened dough.

The bakery is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and can be found online at

On a final note, any Royals fans out there should do a quick Google search for “Salvy The Gold-Glove Catcher,” a video slideshow and song my brother David, his wife, Kate, and our sister Laura put together to raise money for local charities. If you’re not feeling the holiday spirit yet, it could be what you need to turn things around.

— Lucas Wetzel is a writer and editor from Kansas City, Mo. Know of an upcoming event in Kansas City you’d like to see featured in Kansas City Connection? Email us about it at


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