The Nutcracker and Scrooge are back, live and in person

by | Dec 9, 2021 | Arts

“The Nutcracker” returns to live performances this year, presented by Piedmont Dance Theatre and Salisbury Symphony.

Mila Wiley plays Clara, holding her beloved Nutcracker in the Piedmont Dance Theatre production of the ballet, “The Nutcracker,” a Christmas tradition.

The Grinch has not stolen Christmas, after all.

After Covid forced the cancellation of many live performances, there’s a comeback now.

Piedmont Dance Theatre in Kannapolis has managed one weekend of “The Nutcracker” ballet in Mooresville, and is ready for more leading up to Christmas.

They performed live on Nov. 20 and 21, before Thanksgiving, to try out their new protocols and work out logistics so dancers from age 5 to 50+ could be on stage dancing their hearts out. More than 90 students are involved in the production.

Rebecca Wiley, founder and director of the ballet, is thrilled for the group to be live again.

“Last year was challenging not being able to dance in front of a live audience, but we were able to get creative, gathering the cast of 65 dancers in small groups in the theatre to film their scenes, and working with a talented film and editing crew to create a beautiful movie version of the ballet,” Wiley said.

“Showing it at the Speedway on the big screen as part of the Speedway Christmas and the Kannapolis Baller Stadium during their Trees of Hope event certainly made it a memorable experience, and while the dancers will have that movie to always remember 2020, there is nothing that compares to the joy of the whole cast being back in the theatre with a live audience.”

Lee St theatre will present a new adaptation of the Christmas classic, ‘A Christmas Carol’ weekends Dec. 9-19.

Shawn Van Wallendael will learn the true meaning of Christmas in ‘A Christmas Carol” weekends at Lee St theatre.

Being Careful

A live performance during a pandemic, during a time of year when many people travel and would likely be around a lot of family and friends, made planning for a season of shows extremely challenging. No one could predict what November and December would hold as the Dance Theatre began preparing for the ballet this summer.

Putting protocols in place to keep the dancers safe, as well as their families and the audience, was the focus of a lot of time and energy. The dancers wear masks in class and rehearsal but Rebecca wanted to have a performance without masks, so the emotion and excitement of the dancers could enhance the story of the ballet. 

Their strategy to allow this included requiring all dancers to be tested 48 hours before performances, keeping dancers and crew masked backstage at all times, and only allowing the dancers to remove their masks for their time on stage. 

They also added an early weekend of shows in November, before families would travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then waited two weeks after the holiday for the next weekend of shows just in case anyone were to be exposed to illness during their holiday festivities. 

Their strategy has proven successful, with just one dancer reporting illness after the thanksgiving holiday. As has been the studio policy throughout the entire pandemic, the entire cast was alerted right away, but with no one else in the cast sick, there was no indication that the ballet was the source of illness and the show goes on.  

Love an Audience

“It is an absolute joy to know that our students will be performing for our community again,” said Rebecca Wiley.

 “With all of the twists and turns the last year and a half has presented, our faculty and students have remained resilient and have worked harder than ever. After not having a live audience for over a year, I’m confident this Nutcracker season will be our most magical yet,” Rebecca said.

The big treat is coming on Dec. 18 and 19, when the Dance Theatre performs with the Salisbury Symphony at Keppel Auditorium on the Catawba College Campus.

“The Nutcracker” is a ballet of Tchaikovsky’s music, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” Clara, a little girl, receives a nutcracker from her godfather, Drosselmeyer. That night she takes it to bed with her and dreams about the Nutcracker turning into a real prince, who takes her to incredible lands and great adventures.

When she wakes, she’s not sure if it was all a dream or if it really happened.

Featured players include Daniel Wiley as Drosselmeyer, Kovey Johnson as the Nutcracker, Mila Wiley as Clara, Emily Wiley as the Snow Queen; with international guest artists Rachele Buriassi as the Sugar Plum Fairy; David Greenburg and Esnel Ramos, all with professional dance careers.

See it with the Symphony

“The Nutcracker” will be presented Dec. 10 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 11 at 2 p.m., at the Kannapolis Performing Arts Center.

The ballet can be seen in Salisbury with the Salisbury Symphony (https://salisburysymphony.org/shows/the-nutcracker/) on Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m., and Dec. 19 at 2:30 p.m. at Keppel Auditorium on the Catawba College campus.

The best way to get tickets is through the website, https://piedmontdancetheatre.com/upcoming-performances.

The Nutcracker comes to life in Piedmont Dance Theatre’s annual production of the ballet ‘The Nutcracker.’

It takes a village

When it comes to convincing the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge that Christmas is not a humbug, it takes three ghosts, a host of family and old friends and a miracle to change his mind.

In years past, all that happened on a trolley in Salisbury, but this year, Scrooge and his miracle will happen on the Lee Street theatre stage.

Shawn Van Wallendael is playing his dream role as Scrooge.

Rod Oden will direct the adaptation by James Hutchison. And you’ll have a lot of chances to learn about the true meaning of Christmas, with performances on Dec. 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m.

This version of the familiar story introduces Mr. Bentley and Mr. Newbury and audiences will learn about the letters Scrooge wrote to his sister, Fan.

But you’ll also be visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and visit with Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Jacob Marley will still issue his warning to his friend Scrooge, and sweet Belle will be there, too.

Oden promises scary bits, laughs, a few tender moments and some surprises.

See your favorites

“A Christmas Carol” will feature the talents of local performers, including Xander Bauder, Hayden Waugh, Jonathan Wallace, Robert Parks, Aidan Melton, Evynn Rose Grignon, Abigail Skibsted, Cara Hayes, Jordan Roby, and Van Wallendael, who is a regular on both Lee Street and Piedmont Players stages.

The moral of “A Christmas Carol” is timeless — everyone deserves a second chance. It’s a great Christmas message, especially in 2021, when the world has been through so much. It’s nice to know it has a happy ending.

For tickets, go to the Lee St website, https://leestreet.org/season-14/charles-dickens-a-christmas-carol/

Fun for the family

Piedmont Players presents “Frozen Jr.” Dec. 10-12 and 17-19 at the Norvell Theater, 135 E Fisher St. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

A cast of local children brings the Academy Award-winning musical to the stage, with gorgeous sets and incredible costumes. The journey of the two sisters will melt your heart and leave a smile on your face. You’ll hear music from the film and new music created especially for the Broadway stage production.

“Frozen Jr.” is directed by Melanie Cornelison of Mocksville, choreographed by Kyra Bracey; Caroline Stepehenson is music director, Ashley Ward, costume designer, with student stage manager Allex Phoenix.

The large cast features students from first-12th grades. The production is sponsored by F&M Bank.

Members of the cast include: Kara Holt, Maggie Cross, Nora Malek, Madi Callahan, Natalie Callahan, Josie Allen, Sophie Hash, Aymen Bronson, Luke Bardinas, Finley Driggers, Kira Miller, Lizzie Brilliant, Asher Pethel, Jakob Wagner, Jeffrey Moreno, Lucy Black, Tin Yan Ng, Mattie Austin, Dempsey Rowland, Teague Rowland, Dorie Clark, Piper Waters, Olivia Bentley, Anna Lynne Marino, Anna Bentley, June Tilley, Abby Bogle, Margaret Redmond,  Zana Smyre-Rouse, Penelope Sease, Liam Aldridge, Anastasia Aldridge, Grace Santiago.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors and can be purchased at www.piedmontplayers.com or by calling the Box Office at 704-633-5471.

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About The Author

Deirdre Parker Smith

I grew up in the theater; my father was a set designer and my mother was an actress. My most magical memories are from the days when we worked on stage and backstage together. My father, James “Parkie” Parker was a well-respected member of the theatre arts department at Catawba College for 33 years. Though I was born in New York City, and lived for a time in Washington, D.C., I graduated from Salisbury High School and Wake Forest University and was a writer and editor at the Salisbury Post for 35 years. Watching talented people do their thing is a great joy — acting, singing, playing an instrument, painting, drawing, writing. I’ve been lucky to meet many awesome creative people over the years. Art, in all its forms, heals people, makes connections and gives us a deep joy.