Originally published in the Manchester Journal Dec. 15, 2017.
MANCHESTER — Visions of sugar plum fairies will be dancing across stages throughout the Shires this weekend, in Marilyn Cavallari’s 26th iteration of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
Celebrating a 52 year long career in teaching ballet, Cavallari’s production has become something of a holiday tradition in the region. Incorporating children, and even parents, from all reaches of Southern Vermont, the show offers a little something for everyone according to Cavallari.
“This is a community Nutcracker; it’s not just the ballerinas that take classes with me,” she said during a reprieve from rehearsals on Sunday. “We’ve got children as young as three, parents who are in their 50’s, even people who have been in it before or simply saw it and wanted to be in it.”
This year’s production presented a new challenge for Cavallari, however: many of her older performers were unable to return this year, having gone on to high school or even college.
“I didn’t think that we could do it this year,” admitted Cavallari. “These guys have proven me wrong. [The oldest] are 12 and 13, and they’ve been working as hard as they possibly can — even the little ones.”
It’s the “little ones,” she says, that often steal the show. Though the young ballerinas have been rehearsing since October, Cavallari says you never know what surprises will arise on stage.
“They are so cute, and they know it,” she said. “They get the biggest applause of anyone in the show, but you never know what they’re going to do. A little girl came out and yelled for her blanket one year.”
For participating parents, the show provides a fun experience to share with their children.
“It’s wonderful to participate with children in anything, we love doing it,” said parent and performer Matthew Weir. “It’s fantastic to have such a wonderful performance of `The Nutcracker’ in a nice, small community like this, and have our children be able to participate in that. They take it very seriously.”
The classic ballet begins in the midst of a holiday party, hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum and their children. As guests arrive, the children’s favorite Uncle Drosselmyer appears to present gifts to the children. The young Clara receives a Nutcracker doll from Drosselmeyer, falling asleep after the party only to find herself in the “land of sweets” alongside it.
While parent Jeremy Walker will assume the role of Herr Drosselmeyer on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17, Burr and Burton Headmaster Mark Tashjian — recently returned from a sabbatical in Costa Rica — will assume the mysterious role on Dec. 22.
For each performance, the lead role of Clara will rotate between three local ballerinas. Clara’s younger brother Fritz will be played by Cale Tilley. The sugar plum fairy will be played by Yu Yao Lovick, Ally Farrar will play an Arabian dancer, Lily Hickey will take to the stage as a flutist, Jeff Tilley will play Mother Ginger, and Kaitlynn Cherry will perform as a Russian dancer.
The first performance, presented by Cavallari’s Ballet Center at Manchester, will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Bennington Center for the Arts, with Nicoline Norman as Clara.
The show will then head north to Dorset’s Long Trail School at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17, with Kate Andres in the lead this time.
At 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 22, performers will take to the stage at Burr and Burton Academy for a final performance, with Kaya Pedersen as Clara.
A portion of the proceeds from performances will benefit the Irene Hunter Scholarship Endowment Fund, with prices ranging from $24 for adults, $14 for students, and $10 for children 12 and under.
Tickets are available at the Mountain Goat in Manchester and The Bennington Bookshop, or by calling (802) 379-0749. For shows that do not sell out, tickets will also be available at the box office prior to the performance.
Reach Cherise Madigan at email@example.com, or by phone at 802-490-6471.