GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The gentle overture sounds recorded. It’s not. The hall is built for such lovely, live music.

People from a time gone by, each dressed in finery, flow past a colorful backdrop. The spectacle befits the hall, too.

These are impressions of the opening moments of what has been called “The Green Bay Nutcracker.” Performances were snuffed out last year in the COVID-19 pandemic. They are revitalized in Cofrin Family Hall of Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Weidner Philharmonic, thus:

New place, live orchestra, energetic display.

The production continues with two performances today, Saturday, Nov. 27.

A classic tale unfolds: At Christmastime, a girl is gifted a nutcracker in the form of a dashing prince, and that night she dreams vivid, imaginative, loving dreams. With dancing snowflakes, sweets from exotic lands and royalty, this is a super-sized fantasy.

That template is constant with “The Nutcracker.” But live productions are not movies. Not chiseled in stone.

First-time audience members for this version won’t know that Timothy Josephs, artistic director of Northeastern Wisconsin Dance Organization, has reshaped portions of the 2021 edition.

Included are new concepts for a waltz scene with its layer of friskiness.

The story’s magical uncle weaves into many sequences, as if igniting young Clara’s fanciful dreams.

More young dancers blend into the big sequence with dancing snowflakes, with each person-snowflake tossing hands full of imaginary snowflakes galore.

Changes/differences aside, the production transports the audience through the illusions of Uncle Drosselmeyer (Scott Ronsmans) for his graceful, sweet niece, Clara (Adorlee Gustafson). Clara’s mischievous brother, Fritz (Fiona Josephs), instigates part of the storyline by breaking the toy nutcracker, which eventually comes to life.

Most of the 69 dancers are local, from youngsters to folks who have been around dance for a long time. With costumes that often include amazing detail – angels with wings – they provide showcases of images and motion.

Professionals come from the Carolina Ballet. Yevgeny Shlapko is crisp and snappy as the Soldier Doll and Nutcracker Prince. As the latter, he teams with Elder Clara (McKenzie Van Oss, dancing again with her home company) for many sweetly gliding and glowing sequences in the second act fantasyland. The wonderful scene-making is capped by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Taylor Ayotte) and The Cavalier (Kiefer Curtis) for showy and precise artistic physicality in the climactic pas de deux and coda.

All along, the orchestra conducted by Randall Meder pours the foundation with the richly far-ranging music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The production is big, elaborate and vivid – a thing of beauty.


Running time: One hour, 58 minutes

Remaining performances: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27


Creative: Music – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; artistic director and choreographer – Timothy Josephs; music director and conductor – Randall Meder; scenic and lighting designer – Jeffrey Paul Entwistle; costume design – Lori Maher, Kyle Pingle, Emily Paulsen, Linda Feldmann; costumer – Emily Paulsen; wardrobe assistants – Linda Feldmann, Judy Patefield, Tina Peterson; ballet mistresses – Kristen Throne, Diane Danhieux, Barb Gallagher; stage manager – Jodi Radtke Nord; assistant stage manager – Wendy Ann Huber; production manager – Kellie DeJardin; audio – Matt Reindl; lighting – Tracey Cook, Nico Corpus; carpenters – Paul Heim, Mitchell Martin; props – Cory O’Donnell, Ally Swigert



Act I

1st Tableau

Dr. Stahlbaum – Curt Christnot

Mrs. Stahlbaum – Kristen Throne

Young Clara – Adorlee Gustafson

Understudy – Megan Szkodzinski

Fritz – Fiona Josephs

Fathers – Mike Gregare, Lee Kerwin, Jim Koehler, Michael O’Malley, Daniel Rider

Mothers – Laura Bronk, Julie Meyer, Sue Gerbec, Michelle Rider, Katie Rider

Party Girls – Leah Gissendaner, Madeline Harris, Emerson Hicks, Amara Lautenschlager, Glare Schueller, Emmelia Smies, Megan Szkodzinski, Allison Wojtyla

Understudies – Madysen Poppe, Annalyse Throne

Party Boys – Samantha Coppock, Juliet Kyles, Evan Throne, Edison Wojtyla, Eden Wojtyla

Little Party Girls – Charlotte Hettmann, Cecilia Smies, Ariel Virlee, MacGuire Wilke

Little Party Boys – Scarlett Bell, Layla Beno

Maids – Zoe Bronk, Jayme Laabs

Grandmother – Barb Gallagher

Grandfather – Diane Danhieux

Uncle Drosselmeyer – Scott Ronsmans

Christmas Tree Angel – Amelia Gorton

Floppy Doll – Jocelyn Silta

Mechanical Doll – Norah Gallagher

Soldier Doll – Yevgeny Shlapko

2nd Tableau

Nutcracker Prince – Yevgeny Shlapko

Night Scene Little Dolls – Rosie Boyce, Evelyn Jacobe, Alaina Rentmeester, Avery Wynveen

Soldier Doll – Monica Smies

Soldiers – Smantha Coppock, Leah Gissendaner, Madeleine Harris, Jordan Jackson, Juliet Kyles, Katie Meyer, Katie Rider, Anka Rinkeff, Monica Smies, Allison Wojtyla

Mouse Queen – Angela Raedel

Mice – Layla Beno, Abigail Goodacre, Hailey Linz, Natalie Renkas, Clare Schueller, Sadie Spindler, Elise Van Himbergen, Sofia Vorpahl, Eden Wojtyla, Edison Wojtyla

Little Mice – Alexia McMahon, Ava Virlee, Mya Virlee

Elder Clara – McKenzie Van Oss

Snow Queen – Lily Meyer

Dancing Snowflakes – Norah Gallagher, Abigail Goodacre, Amelia Gorton, Emerson Hicks, Fiona Josephs, Amara Lautenschlager, Kendall Lawonn, Katie Meyer, Gretchen Paulsen, Isabella Peterson, Madysen Poppe, Anka Rinkleff, Jocelyn Silta, Sadie Spindler, Megan Szkodzinski, Annalyse Throne

Understudies – Adorlee Gustafson, Emmelia Smies, Monica Smies, Allison Wojtyla

Little Dancing Snowflakes – Rosie Boyce, Natalie Renkas, MacGuire Wilke, Avery Wynveen

Act II

Christmas Tree Angels – Zoe Bronk, Norah Gallagher, Amelia Gorton, Madeline Harris

Angels – Esther Beauchamp, Scarlett Bell, Layla Beno, Samantha Coppock, Charlotte Hettmann, Evelyn Jacobe, Lilienne Jacobe, Juliet Kyles, Hailey Linz, Alexia McMahon, Alaina Rentmeester, Katie Rider, Anka Rinkleff, Cecilia Smies, Emmelia Smies, Monica Smies, Ariel Verlee, Ava Virlee, Mya Virlee, Avery Wynveen

Sugar Plum Fairy – Tayor Ayotte


   Chocolate – Kendall Lawonn, Lilly Meyer, Madysen Poppe

   Coffee – Fiona Josephs, Jocelyn Silta

   Tea Sweets – Leah Gissendaner, Adorlee Gustafson, Katie Meyer, Annalyse Throne

   Trepak – Emerson Hicks, Jordan Jackson, Allison Wojtyla

   Mother Ginger Girls and Cookies – Abigail Goodacre, Natalie Renkas, Clare Schueller, Sadie Spindler

   Marzipan – Claire Silta

   Flowers – Amara Lautenschlager, Isabella Peterson, Megan Szkodzinski

Chocolate – Kendall Lawonn, Lilly Meyer, Madysen Poppe

Coffee – Fiona Josephs, Jocelyn Silta

Tea Sweets – Leah Gissendaner, Adorlee Gustafson, Katie Meyer, Annalyse Throne

Trepak – Emerson Hicks, Jordan Jackson, Katie Rider, Angelea Raedel, Anka Rinkleff, Emmelia Smies, Monica Smies, Allison Wojtyla

Lead Marzipan – Amelia Gorton

Marzipan – Norah Gallagher, Claire Silta

Mother Ginger – Curt Christnot

   Cookies – Hailey Linz, Clare Schueller, Sadie Spindler, Elise Van Himbergen, Edison Wojtyla

   Girls – Abigail Goodacre, Natalie Renkas, Sofia Vorpahl, MacGuire Wilke, Eden Wojtyla

   Cookiettes – Rosie Boyce, Alexia McMahon

Waltz of the Flowers – Norah Gallagher, Amelia Gorton, Fiona Josephs, Amara Lautenschlager, Kendall Lawonn, Katie Meyer, Lilly Meyer, Isabella Peterson, Madysen Poppe, Jocelyn Silta, Megan Szkodzinski, Annalyse Throne

Understudies – Anka Rinkleff, Emerson Hicks

Pas de Deux and Coda:

   Cavalier – Kiefer Curtis

   Sugar Plum – Taylor Ayotte


Apotheosis (Young Clara) – Adorlee Gustafson

Weidner Philharmonic

+ Conductor – Randall Meder

+ Violin I – Luis Fernadez (concertmaster), Jennifer Coopman, Marvin Suson, James Thornton, Shoua Xiong

+ Violin II – Jill Sousek (principal), Josh Agen, Bruce Bowers, Susan Thornton

+ Viola – Ann Stephan (principal), Jane Bradshaw Finch, Steve Schani

+ Cello – Michael Dewhirst (principal), Katie Decker, Charles Stephan

+ Double bass – David Story (principal), Susan Sullivan

+ Flute – Kortney James (principal)

+ Oboe – Jennifer Bryan (principal)

+ Clarinet – Sarah Manasreh (principal), Richard Tengowski

+ Bassoon – Susan Lawrence McCardell (principal)

+ Horn – Michelle McQuade Dewhirst (principal), Andrew Parks

+ Trumpet – Adam Gaines (principal), Jamie Waroff

+ Trombone – Andrew Zipperer (principal)

+ Timpani – Bill Salak (principal)

+ Percussion – Elizabeth DeLamater (principal)

+ Harp – Tammy Kazmierczak (principal)

+ Piano/Keyboards – Emily Sculliufo (principal)

+ Weidner Philharmonic Advisory Committee – Kevin Collins, Luis Fernandez, Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, Randall Meder

+ Musician Contractor – Audrey Nowak

+ Music Librarian – Kaitlyn Francois


NEXT: “A Symphonic Night at the Movies: The Wizard of Oz,” April 3, 2022.

THE VENUE: Cofrin Family Hall is one of three performance spaces within the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. At its maximum capacity setup, the hall seats 2,021 over its three levels of maple-and-burgundy seats. Opened Jan. 15, 1993, the hall was built to adapt to the needs of orchestra concerts, operas, musicals, plays and organ, band and choral concerts. For acoustical properties, wood is emphasized on the seats, mezzanine and balcony surfaces and walls near the stage. Many surfaces are curved to help shape the sound. Wood is featured for an aesthetic reason, too – a “from here” aura of woodsy Northeastern Wisconsin.

THE PEOPLE: The name Cofrin relates in great degree to A.E. Cofrin, founder of Fort Howard Paper Co., and his son, Dr. David A. Cofrin, who was instrumental in building the Weidner Center through multi-million-dollar donations. A friendship developed between David A. Cofrin (1921-2009) and Edward W. Weidner (1921-2007), the beloved founding chancellor of UWGB. Weidner spoke slowly and carried a big idea. Weidner arrived when there were no buildings on the present-day campus on rolling hills near the shore of Green Bay. His interests ranged from academia to birding to sports. He loved building projects. It was in his blood. He guided the building of the Weidner Center, so named from early on in construction. Weidner admitted his eyes welled once when driving to a performance and seeing a green sign along the highway: WEIDNER CENTER.