Ballet Western Reserve A ‘NUTCRACKER’ with a Youngstown touch

Staff report


Ballet Western Reserve’s annual presentation of “A Youngstown Nutcracker” this Saturday will give a bit of local flavor to the traditional holiday classic. Performances will be at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Powers Auditorium.

Conceived, directed and choreographed by Stas Kmiec, BWR’s artistic director, the production will bring notable figures from the area’s history to life on the stage.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the BWR version takes place in Youngstown after the Civil War, and encompasses the city’s rich cultural history. A spoken prologue introduces the audience to such real-life figures as Joseph G. Butler Jr., Jacob Stambaugh, Col. George D. Wick, P. Ross Berry and David Tod, among others, who are attending the holiday party where young Marie receives a gift of a wooden nutcracker by her godfather, Dr. Drosselmeyer.

New aspects and characters will be introduced in this year’s updated edition. The second act will travel forward in time to the city’s Idora Park, where steelworkers, the Warner Brothers and the “leatherhead” football team, the Patricians, can be found.

The storyline, which begins with a grand Christmas Eve gala and a little girl’s journey into the enchanted land of sweets, also will reflect the Valley’s broad cultural and religious diversity, with the lighting of Hanukah candles, as well as a Christmas tree.

The Chaney High School Choir will provide holiday music in the lobby, on stage at intermission and during the iconic snow scene, which will be set in Mill Creek Park.

“Following last year’s successful production, I was excited to embellish the production with additional Youngstown elements,” said Kmiec. “The city’s history has fascinated me. When I became aware of the Idora Park carousel [which was recently restored and is on display in New York] and its special place in the heart of Youngstown, I wanted to incorporate it in some way into the ballet. Thanks to the collaboration and talents of local actors, vocal artists and the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, this classic ballet now takes on local color and pride.”

The idea to create “A Youngstown Nutcracker” struck Kmiec shortly after he took over as artistic director of BWR in 2014.

“While looking through the basement of our home in the Morley Arts Building, I came upon old posters from BWR’s history,” he said. “Many of these I placed on the walls, so students could realize the rich history we possessed. Among them were three BWR appearances with the Moscow Ballet in “A Great Russian Nutcracker.” I began thinking, ‘Why can’t Youngstown have its very own Nutcracker?’ and ‘A Youngstown Nutcracker’ was born.”

BWR company dancers and students will perform key roles such as the Nutcracker, Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Marie. Daniel Cooper, a professional dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet, will appear as a guest artist in the role of the Cavalier. Kmiec will once again assume the character of the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

The Chaney choir students will lend their voices to the end of Act I and the “Waltz of the Snowflakes.” The choir is directed by George Sonny Cashbaugh.

Kmiec said the BWR received financial support from many area businesses and financial institutions. “We are greatly appreciative of how the community has put forth its support to once again bring this production to life,” he said Kmiec. “When the curtain rises, audiences will be treated to eye-popping special effects, brilliant dancing, glorious costumes and the magic of Youngstown’s very own Nutcracker.”

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