The Nutcracker Prince Ushers in Holiday Season

December 19, 2019

The two work study theater classes joined forces to welcome the winter holiday with a colorful production of “The Nutcracker Prince,” a play built around characters and themes of the iconic “Nutcracker” ballet set to music by Tchaikovsky.

The teenage Clara, her pesky brother, their mother and father and their eccentric Uncle Drosselmayer all came to life one Christmas Eve not so very long ago – a Christmas Eve that also featured a life-and-death struggle for gingerbread between the Rat King with his mousy minions and the soldiers of good led by the Nutcracker himself. The play speaks to the heart of the magic that Christmas represents to so many of us when we are children, but also to that special if complex moment when the future as a grownup man or woman beckons  

The ballet was first performed in Russia in the late 19th century, its loose-knit plot pieced together from a collection of fantasy stories written in German by E.T.A. Hoffman. By all accounts, the author was fascinated with what it means to be alive and what would possibly bring inanimate objects, especially dolls, to life. From the ballet forward this theme was always presented with a light touch, yet it’s clear that the stories springing from Hoffman’s bizarre imagination could (like most fairy tales originally) be quite frightening.

The play was directed by McLean’s work study theater teachers, Carolyn Sullivan and John DeMers, with a Christmas-festive set assembled and painted by their colleague Dave Hoopingarner. Other assists came to the production team from McLean’s own Phillip Reid and Rob Langston.

The cast was led by Abby Criswell as Clara, Jack Dennis as her brother Fritz, Trevor Sheehan as the Nutcracker, Daniel Goodwin as Drosselmayer, Maia Stewart as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Ben Shue in an over-the-top turn as the snarling, gingerbread-crazed Rat King. Also contributing to the magic were Kathryn Knight, Ben Baker, Lauren Banks, Polina Leonova, Noor Haq, Alex Pisocky, Juan Ramirez, Adrian Guevara and Minh Lam. Issac Orrel served as The Storyteller.

Many parents contributed goods and services, especially Andrea Shank and Mary Knight. The students and their teachers were grateful to Mark Thompson and Dr. Ellen Reilly for their support.