By Mary Anne Andersen
Cedar City Arts Council
Some things are so singular that you know you will never forget them or have them become confused with other memories. Take our recent enjoyment of a production of the Nutcracker Ballet. Not the Russian dance company that recently performed so exquisitely in the Heritage Theater, but one that occurred in the little community of Beryl.
The newly-minted Escalante Valley Arts Council set the formidable goal of producing the Nutcracker this Christmas season and then saw to it. The result was so heartwarming and charming that I will never forget it.
The venue was a small community center where the audience sat on folding metal chairs. The ceiling was hung with crepe paper streamers and a large sheet of blue plastic along the side of the room provided a sort of backstage area where the performers could wait their turns to go on, hidden from the audience view.
Tchaikovsky is Tchaikovsky, whether from a full symphony orchestra or a boom box set up in front of the stage. The music, then, was gloriously familiar, and I thought right away about the children being introduced to some of the great music of the world—-a desirable result in its own right.
Herr Drosselmeyer was the producer’s husband and the opening party scene consisted of the community children dressed in their Sunday best. Two young, handsome Hispanic boys kept peering anxiously into the audience to try to spot their families, which distraction caused their partners to repeatedly guide them to their appropriate places. Clara and her brother quarreled over the nutcracker until he broke and had to be repaired.
Clara’s dream began as the nutcracker’s soldiers fought and defeated the mouse king’s army. The king was dragged off the stage in a manner befitting his ignoble loss. The nutcracker, in a great hand-made mask, became a prince, and he escorted
Clara to a kingdom of candy.
They passed through a winter wonderland on the way, with pretty girls in white tutus dancing to the music with chorus. Clara and the prince took their thrones and the entertainment began. They watched a pretty Spanish dancer, two Russian dancers in great costumes, and a lithe Arabian dancer. The Chinese dance was soldiers dispatching a Chinese dragon, a concept I’ve not seen before. And Mother Ginger was there!, with four little gingersnaps under her skirt. They cavorted about in typical 5-year-old fashion and I was charmed, especially with the little boy, who clearly knew he was a star. The Sugarplum Fairy role was danced en pointe by a beautiful young woman who had clearly received some training. She was every inch the star ballerina, tall and graceful.
We clapped to recognize the dancers at the curtain call, where the male gingersnap stood stage center and misbehaved until hauled off by a young girl (an embarrassed sister, maybe?) When the curtain was closed, a shout of jubilation came from the performers. They had actually pulled it off! We weren’t the only ones who would never forget that evening.