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BTO celebrating 20 years of ‘Nutcracker’

11/15/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Ballet Theatre of Ohio’s “Nutcracker” will be performed Nov. 24 through Dec. 2 at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Photo courtesy of Ballet Theatre of Ohio
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Going to see Ballet Theatre of Ohio’s (BTO) “Nutcracker” is not simply an evening of dramatic and clever ballet, it is, rather, an event — and one not to be missed.

This year marks the 20th anniversary BTO has offered “Nutcracker,” which will be performed Nov. 24 through Dec. 2 at the Akron Civic Theatre.

Audience members can plan to arrive early to participate in all the extra activities that surround the actual performance of the story ballet.

Christine Meneer, artistic director of BTO, has arranged for ballet characters (a Nutcracker and toy soldiers) to greet audience members by handing out candy canes and leading them to the grand staircase, where there is a Nutcracker Tree for opportunities to take photos.

Fitting with the season will be the ever-popular presence of Santa Claus himself, who will be available to talk to children of all ages about their wishes for presents.

Since this is a milestone year for Meneer’s “Nutcracker,” there will be a historical overview of costumes used in productions throughout the years.

“Long-time patrons will be delighted as they take a walk down memory lane, while those new to the production will enjoy a glamorous glimpse into our past,” said Meener.

After taking in this display, audience members can shop at BTO’s boutique, which, Meneer said, “features a remarkable selection of nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes.”

All that aside, there’s still the spectacle of the ballet. Meneer has tweaked the production regularly over the 20 years she has been working on it. This year, there will be a couple new items, she said.

First, there is a new set for Act II designed by Jack Balance, who has worked on this ballet before and for others for BTO.

As a way to celebrate the 20th occasion of “Nutcracker,” Meneer has dedicated one evening’s performance to a knock-off of the usual tale with what she is calling the “Nutty Nutcracker,” a humorous spoof on the well-known story of Clara, who gets a magical nutcracker for Christmas, which at first saves her from menacing mice and, after transforming into a living handsome Prince, whisks her off to equally magical, exotic and glorious adventures around Clara’s imaginary world.

As is also Meneer’s tradition, there will be cast changes on different weekends of the production. For Nov. 24-25, Haley Boggs will dance the role of Clara and Sarah Ruesch will perform as the Snow Queen, with professional guest artists Jennifer Moll Safonovs, Damien Highfield, Gary Lenington and Brian Murphy.

On the second weekend, Dec. 1-2, Makenna Zelenak will dance the role of Clara, Abigail Wilhite as the Snow Queen, and Sarah Ruesch as the Sugar Plum Fairy, with guest artists Highfield and Ryan DeAlexandro.

Performances will take place Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 at 2 and 7 p.m., and Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. The special performance of “Nutty Nutcracker” will be Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 to $42 and are available at the Civic Theatre Box Office by calling 330-253-2488 or online at www.ballet theatreohio.org.

 

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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