Area residents will be treated to visions of a Sugar Plum Fairy, a Snow Queen and a Rat King, as well as a Christmas tree with more than 1,000 sparkling lights and falling snow on stage when the annual production of “Nutcracker” comes to Jamestown in December.
For nearly 20 years the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet has continued the tradition of bringing the community together to inspire the spirit of the holidays with the timeless story of Clara and her magical nutcracker.
The show will continue this year at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts with public performances scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14. In addition to the public performances, a version of the production will be presented to area schools on Friday, Dec. 13, at 10 a.m. Schools interested in attending may contact the The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts box office at 484-7070.
According to Elizabeth Bush, youth ballet executive director, “Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition that nearly every city in the country has celebrated for many years, partly because it’s got something for everybody.
“It’s definitely a holiday fantasy that the whole family can enjoy,” Bush said. “It’s the complete package because for ballet fans it has gorgeous dancing and beautiful music, and for boys it has the battle scene with the Rat King. For a lot of families it’s a holiday tradition, and I think it’s important to keep that alive.”
Tickets, which are by reserve, are $25 for loge, $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $12 for children. To order tickets, call 484-7070 or visit www.reglenna.com. The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts is located at 116 E. Third St. in Jamestown.
This year’s “Nutcracker” will feature more than 60 cast members, including both youth ballet students and members of the community. Some of the performers featured in key roles this year include: Grace McMillan as Clara for the public performances; Maya Swanson as Clara for the school performance; Shawn Sprankle as the Nutcracker Prince; Jordan Spencer as Herr Drosselmeyer; Madeline Jones as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Lydia Everett as the Snow Queen.
The youth ballet students are under the artistic direction of Monika Alch, who has overseen “Nutcracker” production for 13 years. According to Alch, participating in the youth ballet is an opportunity to develop the skills necessary to pursue a career in dance.
“The opportunity to perform is very slim where we are, so anything you can do is a plus,” Alch said. “This year’s Sugar Plum Fairy will be the youngest ever before. She will do the Sugar Plum Fairy for all three performances, and that’s quite an accomplishment at that age – it’s a great opportunity for such a young dancer. Who knows, maybe she’ll someday be a Sugar Plum Fairy in a bigger company.”
“It’s a very demanding role that we often have a guest artist perform, but she dances it absolutely beautifully,” Bush added.
Jones, who is 16, was understudy for the Sugar Plum Fairy last year, and was able to perform the role during the school show. However, in addition to being a great honor, the role demands great responsibility.
In order to prepare for the role, Jones has been practicing nearly six days a week since the first Sunday of October.
“It’s special to be able to perform it officially for the public instead of for the school show,” Jones said. “I’ve always looked up to the professionals who came in, and wanted to dance the roles they did – now I finally will.”
Another demanding role, the Snow Queen, will be performed by Everett. Last year, Everett was understudy for the role, and was able to meet the challenge head on this year, which is important to her because this is her last year in the program, she said.
“It’s really great, and I’m really excited to be able to dance such a demanding role,” Everett said. “It’s sad, because I’ve loved dancing here, but I’m excited at the same time.”
This year, Clara will be played by McMillan in the public performances. Taking on the role is particularly significant for McMillan because she went from playing the Harlequin Doll last year, to taking on the lead this year.
“It feels great because not everybody gets the chance to do this,” McMillan said. “I really like the party scene because I always thought the choreography was really cool.”
Swanson, who performed the role of the Ballerina Doll last year, will take on Clara in the school show. She’s really looking forward to showing her friends from school what she has learned, she said.
“I’m excited to dance Clara – it’s my first year on pointe,” Swanson said.
AN EVOLVING PROJECT
The show will feature many of the same bells and whistles as has in previous years. However, some aspects of the show have been updated or improved, such as the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, which has been incorporated into the second act.
“It’s going to be a little surprise for everybody,” Alch said.
Another new aspect of the show this year was made possible by David Metzler, the local artist who created a sleigh for the scene in which Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are carried off to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Last year, Metzler updated the Doll Box, and this year he made improvements to the Soldier Box.
“Every year we try to add something new,” Bush said. “We’ve been redoing some of our costumes, such as the party-scene gowns that are probably almost 30 years old, and definitely need to be improved. We’ve also had some very generous contributions to our costume fund, and will be debuting two new gowns this year. Monika’s husband, Mario, also made a donation to redo all of the Angel costumes.”
There are several opportunities to preview this year’s “Nutcracker” before it hits the stage. Those who attend the annual downtown Jamestown Christmas parade, which is set for Friday, Dec. 6, at 6:30 p.m. may notice “Nutcracker” dancers in the windows of the Willow Bay Building on Third Street.
The youth ballet parents guild will also host a boutique with gift items in the Reg Studio Theater on Dec. 3-5 from noon-1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. The boutique will also open during the Christmas parade, as well as be held in the lobby of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts during the public performances.
In addition, area residents will have the chance to join students from the youth ballet for Clara’s Tea, a fundraising promotional event held at the historic Sheldon House. Set for 10 a.m. to noon and 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, Clara’s Tea will feature holiday sweets and treats, crafts with the “Nutcracker” cast, a reading of the “Nutcracker” by McMillan as Clara, live scenes from the ballet and photos with the cast. The Sheldon House is located at 9 Falconer St. in Jamestown. For more information, or to register, call 664-9766.
The Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet is a nonprofit organization that provides classical ballet instruction to youth from Chautauqua County and surrounding areas. For more information, call 664-9766 or visit www.cryb.net.