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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Charm of ‘The Nutcracker’ returns in De Pere with new features

Critic At Large

The Dance Company

Production programs. (Warren Gerds)

DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – The Dance Company of greater Green Bay couldn’t do a full version of “The Nutcracker” last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For its comeback this weekend, the troupe has retooled its already-distinctive version.

One more performance remains today, Sunday, Nov. 28, in Walter Theatre of Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College.

First-time patrons will see the expected showcase of dance set to elegant and exciting music. The story is one of the most famous fantasies of all – a girl receives a nutcracker for Christmas, and that night the nutcracker becomes a human prince in her dreams in a fantasyland.

In previous years, artistic director Shirley Van’s company featured Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabian and other dances in the second act fantasyland. This year, dances are by bon-bons, marzipan, tea, candy canes, chocolate and so forth, even gingerbread children.That means a whole new line of costuming for that sequence.

The music (recorded) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is the same, but the look and movement stylings are adapted – while retaining appeal.

The Dance Company is distinct in the way it presents “The Nutcracker.” Like this:

+ During the overture, a scene is created with a household preparing for evening guests for a Christmastime party. Little things are happening, and then there is a bit of mischief: As a maid polishes a window, the sassy Fritz grabs her hat and runs. His sister, Clara, and the other help join in a chase.

+ Guests arrive by way of aisles. Most are families with frisky kids.

+ Also arriving is a beloved relative of Clara and Fritz, Uncle Drosselmeyer. Not only does Drosselmeyer do magic in the story, in The Dance Company’s production he speaks. What he says more than sets up scenes, it sets up an aura – an enchantment in words.

+ This version also embraces storytelling, with romance very much a part of it.

As often is the case with The Dance Company’s production of “The Nutcracker,” many roles are double cast. I saw the Saturday afternoon performance, and the featured local players were more than just fine. Enthusiasm and energy were everywhere.

Matt Maloney is Drosselmeyer in all the performances, and he has a knack for putting personality to the beloved part of his role. He also has a certain joy in making magic happen, like causing a stage curtain to rise.

Lily Mannion is featured in all performances as the Sugar Plum Fairy, a music-box-dancer type of role she is keen at. She also improvised a bit with a graceful turn Saturday afternoon when Mother Ginger’s giant skirt had a brief malfunction; when all was well, a waved greeting and big smile from Mother Ginger (Emilie Chamberlain) stirred a big cheer from the crowd.

As is tradition with The Dance Company production, dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet play stellar roles. Davit Hovhannisyan, returning from previous years, portrays the Nutcracker Prince who is magically brought back to life by Drosselmeyer after being killed by the King Rat (Jayna Schema) in the battle scene. Davit Hovhannisyan is a striking dancer by himself and a great partner for Luz San Miguel. The two team for daring lifts along with vivid displays of finesse/strength/grace. Davit Hovhannisyan’s hands not only flow with expression, they constantly are at the right place at the right time to make Luz San Miguel’s turns and balance be eye catching.

Direction and imagination by the collaborative of Carrie Wielgus, Jami Goodman, Michael Palubicki, Bryanna Gauger and Morgan Wigman fill the stage with action. This is a big show – more than 60 dancers with many in multiple roles – and it’s a well-coordinated community production.

Something is always happening, whether a solo dancing Harlequin (for instance), a battle between soldiers and rats (the large heads are unique), swirls of snowflakes or flowers by the dozen or gingerbread kiddies doing cartwheels and flips (the gymnastics big a trademark of The Dance Company).

For the 40-somethingth time, it’s a charming production.

***

Running time: Two hours, 14 minutes

Remaining performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

Info: snc.edu/tickets

Sources/credits: Story – based on book by E.T.A. Hoffman; composer – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; orchestra (recorded) – Richard Bonynge and The National Philharmonic Orchestra; orchestra for “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” – Enshu Radio Symphony; Pages song – “The Sleeping Beauty, Opus 66: 10. Entr’ acte Et Scene;” “The Snow Maiden – Opus 12: Dance of Jesters” (arranged by R. Cramer; The Dance Company artistic director – Shirley Van; show director – Carrie Wielgus; assistant show director – Jami Goodman; stage director – Michael Palubicki; dance captain – Bryanna Gauger; assistant choreographer – Morgan Wigman; guild board president – Bobbi Hecker; costumes chair – Renee Ettinger; production chair – Dave Pyres; props chair – Kristy Christensen; lighting – Scott LaPlante; audio/video – Thomas Danz

Casting key: *Friday night and Saturday afternoon. +Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. #Understudy. ^Lead Baby Rats.

Act I

Scene 1 – The Party

Uncle Drosselmeyer – Matt Maloney

Clara and Fritz’s Mother – Tammy Petras

Clara and Fritz’s Father – Dave Wigman

Clara – *Emily Hoeppner, +Grace Nimmer

Fritz – *Sonia Ettinger, +Morgan Lemens

Clara’s Friends – Emily Legois, Avery Spoerl

Fritz’s Friend – Ella Thomas

Ballet Doll – *Natalie Danz, +Sylvia Pryes

Harlequin – *Ally Boockmeier, +Yuritzi Flores

Panthers – *Grace Pieschek +Jayna Schema, *Addison Schmidt, +Ella VanPrice

Maids – Cassie Kubale, Meara Marinan, Jazmin Queoff

Tutor – Clarissa LaPlante

Mothers – Katelyn Badeau, Emilie Chamberlain, Bryanna Gauger, Emma Johnson, Lily Mannion, Tammy Petras, *Grace Pieschek, +Jayna Schema

Fathers – Isaac Bowman, Andrew Delaurelle, Jameson O’Brien, Owen Schroeder, Kaden VanPrice, Dave Wigman, Troy Wypishinski-Prechter

Boys – *Ally Boockmeier, Lauren Buchmann, Megan Buchmann, Ilianna Castro, *Yuritzi Flores, Sarah McPherson, Ella Thomas, +Addison Schmidt, Andrea Vance, *Ella Van Price, Morgan Veldboom, Annabel Willmott

Girls – Michelle Brunette, Savannah Budworth, Keyla Christensen, Sophia Cruz-Reznicek, +Natalie Danz, Emily Legois, Cece Mehlberg, +Syliva Pryes, Lauren Robillard, Avery Spoerl, Liliana Trace, Hannah O’Neil, Sofia Kuznetsov

Scene 2 – The Battle

Clara – Luz San Miguel

Nutcracker Prince – Davit Hovhannisyan

King Rat – Jayna Schema

Baby Rats – ^Michelle Brunette, Lauren Buchmann, Megan Buchmann, Savannah Budworth, Keyla Christensen, ^Cassie Kubale, Meara Marinan, ^Cece Mehlberg, Liliana Trace, Andrea Vance, Annabel Willmott, Sofia Kuznetsov

Rats – Ally Boockmeier, Ilianna Castro, Yuritzi Flores, Clarissa LaPlante, Emily Legois, Sylvia Pryes, Jazmin Queoff, Lauren Robillard, Addison Schmidt, Avery Spoerl, Ella Thomas, Ella VanPrice

Soldiers – Katelyn Badeau, +Isaac Bowman, +Emilie Chamberlain, Natalie Danz, +Sonia Ettinger, +Emily Hoeppner, Emma Johnson, *Morgan Lemens, Lily Mannion, *Sarah McPherson, *Grace Nimmer, Grace Pieschek, *Owen Schroeder, *Morgan Veldboom, +Hannah O’Neil

Scene 3 – Journey Through the Land of Snow

Snow Queen – Sylvia Pryes

Snow Princesses – Ally Boockmeier, Lily Mannion, Grace Nimmer, Grace Pieschek

Snowflakes – Natalie Danz, Sonia Ettinger, Emma Johnson, Clarissa LaPlante, Morgan Lemens, Jayna Schema, Addison Schmidt, Ella VanPrice, #Avery Spoerl

Act II

Clara – Luz San Miguel

Nutcracker Prince – Davit Hovhannisyan

King Rat – Owen Schroeder, #Isaac Bowman

Angels – Shaelyn Martineau, Layla Paul, Harper Schroeder, Maren Schulz, Piper Aaron, Jocelyn Bethke, Mackenzie Gwidt, Hadeline Hansen, Madeline Hansen, Delaney Jones, Macy Schnell, Ella Seidl

Second Act Opening – Ally Boockmeier, Natalie Danz, Sonia Ettinger, Lily Mannion, Emma Johnson, Clarissa LaPlante, Grace Pieschek, Jazmin Queoff, Jayna Schma, Addison Schmidt, Avery Spoerl, Ella Thomas, Andrea Vance, Ella Van Price, Annabel Willmott

Court Princess – Braylynn Hunter

Bon-Bons – Clarissa LaPlante (Lead), Michelle Brunette, Emilie Chamberlain, Cassie Kubale, Cece Mehlberg, Meara Marinan, Jazmin Queoff, Lauren Robillard, Hannah O’Neil

Marzipan – Natalie Grace, Grace Nimmer, Grace Pieschek, Sylvia Pryes

Tea – Avery Spoerl, Ella Thomas

Candy Canes – Isaac Bowman, Ilianna Castro, Sonia Ettinger, Emily Legois, Sarah McPherson, Jayna Schema, Owen Schoeder, Morgan Veldboom

Chocolate – Addison Schmidt, Ella VanPrice

Mother Ginger – Emilie Chamberlain

Gingerbread Children – Big Brothers/Sisters – Savannah Budworth, Lauren Buchmann, Megan Buchmann, Keyla Christensen, Liliana Trace, Andrea Vance, Annabel Willmott, Sofia Kuznetsov

Gingerbread Children – Little Brothers/Sisters – Shaelyn Martineau, Harper Schroder, Maren Schulz, Layla Paul

Coffee – Katelyn Badeau, Ally Boockmeier, Yuritzi Flores, Emily Hoeppner, Emma Johnson, Morgan Lemens

Sugar Plum Fairy – Lily Mannion

Waltz of the Flowers – Company Dancers

Pas de Deux – Luz San Miguel and Davit Hovhannisyan

Finale – Company Dancers

***

NEXT: “The Dance Company Does Broadway,” dates to be announced.

THE VENUE: The 724-seat Byron L. Walter Theatre features a proscenium stage (flat front). Its walls are textured concrete blocks laid in a wave pattern. The ceiling includes white acoustical clouds. Seat material and carpeting are the traditional theater red. The theater is located in Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College in De Pere. It is the larger of two theaters in the building, the core of which was built in 1955. In 1989, the Walter Theatre was renovated to improve the lobby and interior aesthetic, adding seating and improving the acoustics.

THE PERSON: Byron L. Walter (1877-1954) was a businessman. He operated Green Bay Hardware, Inc. until his retirement in 1953. Walter was co-founder of Paper Converting Machine Co. and for a time served as president. After his death, the Byron L. Walter Family Trust was established, and it made possible the theater. The trust continues to make widespread contributions to community projects and institutions.

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