STAGE-M production of ‘Nutcracker’ set to open Nov. 15

Actors in the STAGE-M production of “The Nutcracker: A Play,” pictured in front, from left, Charlotte Lindsey, Jerena Keys (back) and Layla Garvon, are pictured rehearsing at the Crossroads Charter Academy Auditorium Monday. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

BIG RAPIDS — The latest STAGE-M production brings a holiday classic ballet with Russian origins back to its roots as a Germanic fairy tale, performed by local children and grown-ups.

“The Nutcracker: A Play,” tells the traditional story which is often overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour of the famous “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” — one of good versus evil and love conquering all during Christmastime. The show opens on Nov. 15 at the Crossroads Charter Academy Auditorium, 215 N. State St.

Grand Rapids-based playwright David Hammond wrote the play, which is adapted from a novella by the 18th-century German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. It is vastly different from the better-known ballet by the Russian composer Tchaikovsky, who also drew inspiration from Hoffmann.

Director Linda Rinehart explained that Tchaikovsky moved the fairy tale to Russia and focused on lesser aspects of the story: a pretty party, some fanciful toys and beautiful dancing. The ballet is terrific for what it is, she said, but it’s not quite the same as the original.

Rinehart hopes to bring families to the STAGE-M production as they get ready to celebrate the holiday season.

“It’s a family show. You could do lots of blood and gore if you wanted to, but we decided not to do that. We’re hoping to have lots of kids,” she said. “Every other year, we try to do a Christmas play, and it’s a lot of fun.”

In addition to children in the audience, Rinehart said, there will also be children on stage. Roughly one-third of the cast of 30 are made up of kids, which she said brings a whole new perspective to the job of the director.

“I just love it. They’re so much fun. The other day — I never post anything on Facebook — but they were so good that day, I had to post about it on Facebook. They were so energetic and they did everything right. It was a blast,” she said.

Emma Hauger is one of those children in the show. A 16-year-old junior at Big Rapids High School, Hauger actually plays three characters — the mother of the protagonist, the queen and a spider. She said she’s looking forward to seeing how audiences react to the play version of “Nutcracker.”

“It’s so different. People are normally used to the ballet. They think of the Russian composer, so just having it be a play instead of music and dancing, it’s going to be different, and I think people are going to really enjoy it,” Hauger said.

“The Nutcracker: A Play,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-17 and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 18.

Tickets are $5 for students and $11 for adults. They are available to be purchased in-person at Patterson’s Flowers, the Old Pioneer Store and Emporium and the Mecosta County Visitor’s Bureau; over the phone by calling (231) 592-TIXX; or online at stage-m.org.

Pictured from left, two of the stars in the STAGE-M production of “The Nutcracker: A Play,” Ashton Moyer and Isaac Wilhelm, are pictured rehearsing at the Crossroads Charter Academy Auditorium Monday. “Nutcracker” opens Nov. 15. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

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