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Nutcracker a lush production

Coasting Along Theatre Society
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Jan DeGrass Photo

Party at the Stahlbaums: (l to r) Ryan Franken, Sebastian, Luke Hansen, Duane Burnett, Vivien Spry perform in The Nutcracker.

The forthcoming production of The Nutcracker is big — very big. This is not just a frothy confection of ballet with a light spread of musical icing. This is a lush, triple-layer cake with the cream of guest artists, the rich music of Tchaikovsky and parts for two casts of approximately 100 of the Coast’s dancers and actors, young and old.

The professional presentation is directed by David and Kathleen Holmes of Davis Bay who intend it to be an annual event by the Coasting Along Theatre Society.

And now the downside: the dance performance is set to open this Saturday, Dec. 15, and closes on Sunday, Dec. 23, at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons. All performances are sold out. David Holmes told Coast Reporter it sold out within the first week with members of the society having first dibs on the reserved seating. “But there’s always next year,” he said. “Everyone is on a learning curve this year, but next year …”

In a rehearsal room at the Coast Academy of Dance Dec. 8, the usual pre-show chaos reigned. Young dancers from the age of eight to adults tried on their costumes, fixed their hair and makeup, rehearsed their pirouettes. When the time came for performance, all was quiet. Kathleen checked each dancer’s appearance with care making sure that a child’s shoe was on correctly or that an adult’s luxuriant hair was tucked back properly. Little things count.

To the strains of Tchaikovsky’s famous music, the ballet began in the home of Mr. Stahlbaum (Duane Burnett) where a party is underway. Daughter Clara (Bronte Hansen) and her brother Fritz (Halle Holmes) are delighted to receive toys. When the slightly sinister toy maker Herr Drosselmeyer (John Conway) arrives, things become more mysterious. Clara is shown a wind-up doll (Erika Wrightman) and a nutcracker doll, which is quickly broken.

Clara decides to sleep under the Christmas tree that night with her new doll, but is surprised to awaken and find that the tree has grown and that her nutcracker soldier is alive (Luke Hansen). He must fend off the mice who now rule the room. The soldier fights a duel with the Mouse King (Jarrett Carlington) and, with intervention from Clara, the nutcracker wins the day.

Carlington, who usually dances hip hop, took up ballet practice for his part as the Mouse King.

“In the fight scene, we’re both wearing masks,” he said, “and that’s going to be pretty challenging.”  

In act two, Clara is transported to the land of dancing snowflakes and is greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy where she enjoys a selection of dancing delights including a performance by Mother Ginger (Pan Willson), before being escorted by a handsome cavalier back to her home. Two professional dancers, Colleen Barnes and Miguel Nguyen, play these demanding roles.   

The costume department, under the direction of Conchita Harding, has whipped up exciting and glittery outfits and the scenery was designed by Cody Chancellor.

“We were going to have scenery made up in Los Angeles,” David said, “but we found an excellent talent in this community.”

The Holmes are greatly impressed with the way the community jumped in to give support. David noted that to mount such a big production can cost $100,000 minimum for such exquisite costumes, scenery and equipment, not to mention the time and talent.

“We did it from scratch, and it worked!” he said.

There were some who said that it couldn’t be done — in a rural community on a small stage with many amateur dancers. But the Holmes are the sort who believe that anything is possible and they have the credentials to back it up.

David was trained at the Kirov Ballet in Russia, and he has performed on international stages, drawing accolades from ballet’s finest dancers and critics. (A gorgeous film, Adagio, made by Norman McLaren, of David’s dance performance, can be seen on The Nutcracker’s website: www.coastingalongtheatre.org).

Kathleen has danced all her life and performed in many Nutcracker productions in the U.S. Her teachers were from Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and she was a principal artist in many full-length, classic Russian dances.

The Holmes teach intensive ballet classes on the Coast and are committed to training the next generation of dancers. The Nutcracker is right up their alley.

“Nutcracker is a renewable resource,” David laughed. “There are new, young kids coming along all the time.”


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