Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Nutcracker’ continues its large-scale luster in De Pere

Critic At Large

The Dance Company

Featured dancers Davit Hovhannisyan and Marize Fumero set a climactic pose in a scene from “The Nutcracker” presented by The Dance Company. (Company photo)


Year 41 for The Dance Company’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” sails on, steady as she goes in its distinctive ways.

The fourth, and final, performance is scheduled for 1 p.m. today, Sunday, Dec. 1, in Walter Theatre of Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College.

Artistic director Shirley Van’s version includes two moments of narrative to help set the tone: A girl’s beloved and magical uncle speaks of childhood and dreams, and then a story of imagined romance unfolds amid much fantasy.

This full-bodied version begins with a substantial prologue with maids of a family in a far-off land preparing a large home for guests for a Christmas celebration. It is a time past when wall sconces with candles serve as lighting. Guests – knots of families – arrive by way of the audience aisles. Festivities include dancing, toasting and a show for the children by young Clara’s uncle. Included are a puppet show and toys brought to life – a mechanical doll, a harlequin doll and two scary panthers. Uncle Drosselmeyer gifts Clara a nutcracker in the form of a soldier. Clara’s brother, Fritz, who already is sassy, is miffed when his gift is a mere walnut for cracking by nutcracker. Fritz and a buddy break the nutcracker. Uncle Drosselmeyer wraps a scarf around the soldier nutcracker’s neck. When Clara sleeps, she dreams of her nutcracker as a man, a daring prince of battle and of romance in a wonderland.

The Dance Company’s production is storytelling – with dance – on a large scale (60-plus performers). As usual, some roles are double-cast and cross-cast, with the dancers playing different characters from performance to performance along with other roles in the course of each performance.

The local cast for The Dance Company’s production of “The Nutcracker” (Company photo)

Costuming, storytelling, disciplined dancing, fun-for-the-young dancing, aura, imagination and a sense of joy in doing color the production. Some gymnastics are part of the movement excitement in The Dance Company’s version fashioned by Van’s team of Carrie Wielgus (show director), Jami Goodman (assistant show director), Michael Palubicki (stage director) and Bryanna Gauger (dance captain, and key dancer in multiple scenes).

The icing on the cake are Davit Hovhannisyan and Marize Fumero, the striking guest featured dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet. They move as silk, as sinew, as strength, as sensitivity, as skill layered upon skill. In their first featured segment, Hovhannisyan one-hand lifts Fumero above his head in a feat of great difficulty. More than once, they rush and whirl and jump and spin and end up with Fumero nestled in Hovhannisyan’s grasp, beaming.

The Dance Company dancers throw themselves into picturesque motion-scenes.

Notable this year is “Waltz of Flowers” with males joining in the flourishes. Also a bit different is the interplay between the Harlequin and Ballet Doll in the magical sequence.

Always big and eye-filling are the battle between the soldiers and rats (with fantastic, large heads) and “Snow” with its churn of energy.

The sequence with the international dances is again different, as it is year to year, with the creative team’s imagination fitting dancers to colorful splashes.

Versatility is on display as dancers show up in scene after scene, costume change after costume change, character after character. The practice and hard work and love of doing radiate.

Well done. Again.

The technical controls for The Dance Company’s production of “The Nutcracker” in Walter Theatre of St. Norbert College. (Company photo)


Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes

Remaining performance: 2 p.m. Dec. 1

Info: or



Sources/credits: Story – based on book by E.T.A. Hoffman; composer – Peter Illyich 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 Dance Company artistic director – Shirley Van; show director – Carrie Wielgus; assistant show director – Jami Goodman; stage director – Michael Palubicki; dance captain – Bryanna Gauger; costumes chair – Ann Suring; production chair – Dave Pyres; props – Alanna Miller, Kelly Pieschek, Kathie VanPrice; lighting – Scott LaPlante; audio/video – Thomas Danz

Casting key: *Friday night and Saturday afternoon. +Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. #Understudy

Act I

Scene 1 – The Party

Uncle Herr Drosselmeyer: Matt Maloney

Mother: Tammy Petras

Father: Dave Wigman

Clara: *Lily Mannion, +Koree Brosig

Fritz: *Grace Nimmer, +Jessie Petras

Clara’s Friend: *Koree Brosig, +Lily Mannion

Fritz’s Friend: *Jessie Petras, +Grace Nimmer

Girls: *Lauren Buchmann, *Megan Buchmann, *Sylvia Pryes, Michelle Brunette, Sophia Cruz-Reznicek, Emily Legois, Cece Melberg, Jazmin Queoff, Andrea Vance, +Savannah Budworth, +Kayla Hecker, +Liliana Trace

Boys: *Keyla Christensen, *Clarissa LaPlante, *Izzy Nelson, *Amber Polomis, Ilianna Castro, Sonia Ettinger, Yuritzi Flores, Emma Johnson, Grace Nimmer, Jessie Petras, Jayna Schema, Addison Schmidt, Ella Thomas, Ella VanPrice, Kate Miller, +Ally Boockmeir, +Natalie Danz, +Grace Pieschek, +Aubrey Postl

Mothers: Katelyn Badeau, Maggie Donovan, Bryanna Gauger, Hannah Schmitz, Morgan Wigman, Josey Wolf

Fathers: Isaac Bowman, Richard Dauphinais, Andrew Delaurelle, Owen Schroeder, Hunter Vannieuwenhoven, Troy Wypishinski-Prechter

Harlequin: *Ally Boockmeier, +Izzy Nelson

Ballet Doll: *Kayla Hecker, +Sylvia Pyres

Panthers: *Natalie Danz, *Grace Pieschek, +Clarissa LaPlante, +Amber Polomis

Maids: *Natalie Danz, *Grace Pieschek, +Clarissa LaPlante, +Amber Polomis

Tutor: Avery Spoerl

Scene 2 – The Battle

Clara: Marize Fumero

Nutcracker Prince: Davit Hovhannisyan

Uncle Drosselmeyer: Matt Maloney

King Rat: Morgan Wigman, #Kayla Hecker

Lead Rats: Sonia Ettinger, Kayla Hecker, Hannah Schmitz

Rats: Ally Boockmeier, Koree Brosig, Clarissa LaPlante, Lily Mannion, Kate Miller, Sylvia Pryes, Addison Schmidt, Avery Spoerl, Ella VanPrice

Baby Mice: Michelle Brunette, Ilianna Castro, Yuritzi Flores, Brooklyn Klarner, Cassie Kubale, Emily Legois, Grace Mehlberg, Jazmin Queoff, Lauren Robillard, Ella Thomas, Morgan Veldboom

Soldiers: Katelyn Badeau, Natalie Danz, Bryanna Gauger, Emma Johnson, Morgan Lemens, Maria Miller, Izzy Nelson, Grace Nimmer, Grace Pieschek, Jessie Petras, Grace Pieschek, Amber Polomis, Jayna Schema, Josey Wolf, Troy Wypishinsk-Prechter

Scene 3 – Journey Through the Land of Snow

Snow Queen: Bryanna Gauger

Snow Leads: Koree Brosig, Kayla Hecker, Jessie Petras, Morgan Wigman

Snow Princesses: Principal and Soloist Dancers

Act II

Clara: Marize Fumero

Nutcracker Prince: Davit Hovhannisyan

King Rat: Josey Wolf

Angels: Lauren Buchmann, Megan Buchmann, Savannah Budworth, Keyla Christensen, Lucy Greiling, Shaelyn Martineau, Caroline Massart, Aubry Postl, Emma Schroeder, Harper Schroeder, Maren Schultz, Jackson Toivonen, Liliana Trace, Andrea Vance

Court Dancers: Michelle Brunette, Yuritzi Flores, Cassie Kubale, Emily Legois, Jazmin Queoff, Ella Thomas

Crown Presenter: Andrea Vance

Pages: Junior Illianna Castro, Brooklyn Klarner, Cece Mehlberg, Lauren Robillard, Morgan Veldboom

Spanish: Jessie Petras, Morgan Wigman, #Bryanna Gauger

Lead Jester: Amber Polomis

Jesters: Morgan Lemens, Kate Miller, Jayna Schema, Addison Schmidt, Ella Thomas, Ella VanPrice

Jesters’ Magic: Ally Boockmeier, Sonia Ettinger, Yuritzi Flores, Izzy Nelson, Grace Nimmer, Hannah Schmitz

Flutes: Koree Brosig, Bryanna Gauger, Kayla Hecker, Lilly Mannion, Sylvia Pyres

Russian Girls: Clarissa LaPlant, Grace Nimmer, Jessie Petras, Amber Polomis

Russian Boys: Katelyn Badeau, Owen Schroeder, Hannah Schmitz, Troy Wypishinski-Prechter, #Jayna Schema

Chinese: Natalie Danz, Emma Johnson, Maria Miller, Avery Spoerl

Arabian: Koree Brosig, Lily Mannion, Grace Pieschek, Sylvia Pryes, Josey Wolf, Morgan Wigman, Troy Wypishinski-Prechter, #Addison Schmidt

Queen Mother: Katelyn Badeau

Offspring: Lauren Buchmann, Megan Buchmann, Savanna Budworth, Keyla Christensen, Aubry Postl, Liliana Trace, #Andrea Vance

Sugar Plum Fairy: Kayla Hecker

Waltz of the Flowers: Principle, Soloist and Ensemble Dancers

Pas de Deux: Marize Fumero and Davit Hovhannisyan

Finale: Principal, Soloist and Ensemble Dancers


NEXT: “The Little Mermaid,” March 19-22.

THE VENUE: The 725-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.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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