GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – “Nutcracker at The Weidner” is a new name.

The music in it is storied – so beloved it inspires major effort by many in a sweeping array of artistry.

The gentle overture sounds recorded, though performed by an unseen orchestra intent on beauty.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Cofrin Family Hall is built for such lovely, live music.

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

Snapshot of one of the impressive sequences in Friday night’s first of three performances: Following scenes with multitudes of dancers – 67 in the production overall – the Sugar Plum begins a very solo solo. The audience is dead silent, watching every meticulous move of Taylor Ayotte. Every note has an en point presence, as if a dot here, a dot there for one toe and the other in rhythmic perfection. This music box dancer is the magic of live.

Magic happens to be a theme of “Nutcracker at The Weidner.” An uncle in the story arrives at a lavish family party and sets oh so much in motion with his magic.

And it’s all a dream.

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.

From year to year, this production is like putty for Timothy Josephs, artistic director of Northeastern Wisconsin Dance Organization. Depending on his lineup of young dancers, he shapes the look and flow of scenes. The music is the same, but presentations change to whatever he imagines for his dancers. And others add ideas, too, such as the live voices singing from the Green Bay Girl Choir to fill out the sound of “Dancing Snowflakes.”

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

Most of the 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 (the supple 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 (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 a thing of beauty – big, elaborate and vivid.

Timothy Josephs’ program statement has a special warmth. Such as:

+ “… it has been my great pleasure to work with such lovely and dedicated dancers representing many different schools, communities and dance studios.”

+ “… My special thanks to Jeffery Entwistle (his huge set pieces create a visual aura), Emily Paulsen (her costuming vision is another visual landscape of imagination), Shelby Edwards, Wendy Huber, Jenevieve Lee (their guiding of arrivals and departures is like clockwork)…”

+ “A very special thank you to all our guest dancers… for sharing their amazing skills, talents and professionalism with us.”

+ “A most exceptional thank you to the Weidner Philharmonic and conductor Randall Meder for bringing the magic of live music to the production.” Performances of “The Nutcracker” with a live orchestra are not common in this area, so it’s a big deal.

Friday night’s performance with a substantial audience drew a standing ovation.


Running time: One hour, 56 minutes

Remaining performances: 2 p.m. Nov. 26, 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; ballet mistresses – Kristen Throne, Diane Danhieux, Barb Gallagher; stage manager – Shelby Edwards; assistant stage managers – Wendy Ann Huber, Jenevieve Lee; production manager – Corey Pinchart; technical director, audio engineer – Matt Reindl



Act I

1st Tableau

Dr. Stahlbaum – Curt Christnot

Mrs. Stahlbaum – Kristen Throne

Young Clara – Clare Schueller

Fritz – Leah Gissendaner

Fathers – Mike Gregare, Lee Kerwin, Jim Koehler, Dean Rodeheaver, Jocelyn Silta Rider

Mothers – Laura Bronk, Sue Gerbec, Meghan Hyler, Julie Meyer, Gretchen Paulsenr

Party Girls – Lily Brouchoud, Elianna Coussons, Swathi Dhanwendran, Madeline Harris, Jordan Jackson, Madysen Poppe, Isabella Peterson, Sadie Spindler

Party Boys – Adorlee Gustfson, Hailey Linz, Evan Throne

Little Party Girls – Hailey Brouchoud, Natalie Griffin, Alexia McMahon, Miriam Smith

Little Party Boys – Evelyn Jacobe, Cecilia Smies

Maids – Zoe Bronk, Jayme Laabs

Grandmother – Barb Gallagher

Grandfather – Diane Danhieux

Uncle Drosselmeyer – Scott Ronsmans

Christmas Tree Angel – Lilly Meyer

Floppy Doll – Megan Szkodzinski

Mechanical Doll – Annalyse Throne

Soldier Dolls – Yevgeny Shlapko, Samantha Coppock

2nd Tableau

Nutcracker Prince – Yevgeny Shlapko

Soldiers – Lily Brouchoud, Samantha Coppock, Mariah Frase, Madeline Harris, Jordan Jackson, Hailey Linz, Katie Meyer, Katie Rider, Anka Rinkleff, Emmelia Smies

Mouse Queen – Angela Raedel

Mice – Scarlett Bell, Rosie Boyce, Swathi Dhanvendran, Adorlee Gustfson, Ashoka Jacob, Avelyn Maulton, Natalie Renkas, Elise Van Himbergen, Sofia Vorpahl, MacGuire Wilke

Little Girl Mice – Evelyn Jacobe, Lilienne Jacobe

Elder Clara – McKenzie Van Oss

Snow Queen – Kendall Lawann

Dancing Snowflakes – Elianna Coussons, Leah Gissendaner, Adorlee Gustfson, Fiona Josephs, Katie Meyer, Lilly Meyer, Gretchen Paulsen, Isabella Peterson, Madysen Poppe, Anka Rinkleff, Clare Schueller, Jocelyn Silta, Emmelia Smies, Sadie Spindler, Megan Szkodzinski, Annalyse Throne

Little Dancing Snowflakes – Rosie Boyce, Alexia McMahon, Natalie Renkas, MacGuire Wilke

Act II

Christmas Tree Angels – Zoe Bronk, Katie Meyer, Gretchen Paulsen, Emmelia Smies

Angels – Etta Boyce, Rosie Boyce, Hailey Brouchoud, Mariah Frase, Natalie Griffin, Ahsoka Jacob, Evelyn Jacobe, Liliene Jacobe, Hailey Linz, Meghan McKnight, Alexia McMahon, Alexi Mercado, Avelyn Moulton, Cecilia Smies, Miriam Smith, Elise Van Himbergen, Sofia Vorpahl, MacGuire Wilke, Grace Wilson-Shallow

Sugar Plum Fairy – Taylor Ayotte


   Chocolate – Fiona Josephs, Madysen Poppe, Jocelyn Silta

   Coffee – Kendall Lawonn, Lilly Meyer

   Tea Sweets – Swathi Dhanvendran, Leah Gissendaner, Clare Schueller, Sadie Spindler

   Trepak – Samantha Coppock, Madeline Harris, Jordan Jackson, Isabella Peterson

   Lead Marzipan – Megan Szkodzinski

   Marzipan – Anka Rinkleff, Annalyse Throne

   Flowers – Elianna Coussons, Adorlee Gustfson

Chocolate – Fiona Josephs, Madysen Poppe, Jocelyn Silta

Coffee – Kendall Lawonn, Lilly Meyer

Tea Sweets – Swathi Dhanvendran, Leah Gissendaner, Clare Schueller, Sadie Spindler

Trepak – Lily Brouchoud, Samantha Coppock, Mariah Frase, Madeline Harris, Jordan Jackson, Isabella Peterson, Angela Raedel, Emmelia Smies

Lead Marzipan – Megan Szkodzinski

Marzipan – Anka Rinkleff, Annalyse Throne

Mother Ginger – Curt Christnot

   Cookies/Girls – Scarlett B ell, Rosie Boyce, Hailey Brouchoud, Alexia McMahon, Avelyn Moulton, Natalie Renkas, Ceclia Smies, Elise Van Himbergen, Sofia Vorpahl, MacGuire Wilke

   Cookiettes – Etta Boyce, MJ Boyce

Waltz of the Flowers – Elianna Coussons, Adorlee Gustfson, Fiona Josephs, Kendall Lawonn, Katie Meyer, Lilly Meyer, Isabella Peterson, Madysen Poppe, Anka Rinkleff, Jocelyn Silta, Megan Szkodzinski, Annalyse Throne

Pas de Deux and Coda:

   Cavalier – Kiefer Curtis

   Sugar Plum – Taylor Ayotte


Apotheosis (Young Clara) – Clare Schueller


Weidner Philharmonic

+ Conductor – Randall Meder

+ Violin I – Luis Fernadez (concertmaster), Jennifer Coopman, Taylor Giorgio, Isabel Sorebo, James Thornton, Shoua Xiong

+ Violin II – Marvin Suson (principal), Monica Hrudik, Caitlin Kirchner, TJ Lutz, Susan Thornton, Chris Williams

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

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

+ Bass – Susan Sullivan (principal), David Story

+ Flute – Kortney James (principal)

+ Oboe – Jennifer Bryan (principal)

+ Clarinet – David Bell (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 – Elizabeth DeLamater (principal)

+ Percussion – Bill Salak (principal)

+ Harp – Tammy Kazmierczak (principal)

+ Piano/Keyboards – Emily Sculliufo (principal)

+ Weidner Philharmonic Advisory Committee – Luis Fernandez, Adam Gaines, Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, Randall Meder, Bill Sallak

+ Weidner Philharmonic Personnel Manager – Michael Dewhirst

Green Bay Girl Choir

Sophia Dolphin, Audrey Fortney, Mia Lewis, Jacelyn Mueller, Jenny Ordaz, Harmony Skog, Kaia Streckenbach, Freya Streckenbach, Molly Stremer, Lilliana Van Schykndel, Anna Wadle


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.