EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 21, 2012

Nutcrackers galore

From local productions to local viewings, there are several ways and places to see 'The Nutcracker' this season.

By Alexandra Pecci

---- — Just as surely as Brenda Lee will rock around the Christmas tree and Santa Clause will come to town, local ballet companies are again staging sumptuous productions of “The Nutcracker” this Christmas season.

From Boston to North Andover and spots in between and beyond, fans of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet can once again get whisked away to the world of fairies, princes, toy soldiers, and childhood dreams.

“It’s the most beautiful music you can image,” says Mary Demaso, artistic director of Dance Prism, a Boston-area based dance company whose touring production of “The Nutcracker” hits the Collins Center for the Performing Arts at Andover High School on December 15 and 16.

“The Nutcracker” tells the story of a young girl named Clara who receives a toy nutcracker from her godfather on Christmas Eve. Later that night, when everyone else has gone to bed, Clara wakes up to find that the nutcracker has grown life-sized; soon he fights the Mouse King and his army. The nutcracker then transforms into a prince, who takes Clara to the Land of Sweets.

Demaso says Kaitlyn Odlum of North Andover, who plays Clara, is a dancer to watch.

“She’s a very bright and witty energetic Clara,” says Demaso. “Some are more wistful, more ethereal. She’s a very strong dancer and you can see that in what she does. She has a really good sense of character.”

Demaso also adds that Odlum’s Clara, along with the young dancer who plays her brother, Fritz “have a very lively and antagonistic relationship and they’re fun to watch because they’re both very good actors.”

Like so many productions of “The Nutcracker,” Demaso says a hallmark of Dance Prism’s version are the beautiful costumes and sets, which create a sophisticated, dreamlike atmosphere of a Christmas fairy land. And unlike other some other productions, Demaso says there’s nothing cartoonish about the sets.

Special effects and new costumes are in store for audiences who choose to see the Methuen Ballet Ensemble’s production of The Nutcracker, which opens at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport.

“We have gotten a little bit more into the visual effects,” says Vanessa Voter, artistic director and choreographer for the Methuen Ballet Ensemble, who adds that she re- choreographs and restages all the numbers every year so people who attend season after season always see something new and different.

“I always change it so it’s never the same thing,” she says.

This year, audiences can look forward to a newly constructed boat and sleigh that really transport the characters across the stage. There will also be snow falling and a Christmas tree that really grows onstage.

She’s also excited about the gala reception which will be held in the main lobby of The Firehouse at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24 prior to the show at 7. Voter says the gala not only gives people a chance to mingle and meet the cast, but lends a festive, formal feel to a night at the ballet.

“You want to bring the spark,” she says. “It’s just beautiful.”

Although both Voter and Demaso have been producing “The Nutcracker” for years, both seem to love the beauty and tradition of the classic ballet.

“I hope they enjoy it,” Voter says. “I hope they sit there and feel the same passion that everyone else does.”

If you go:

What: Methuen Ballet Ensemble’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport

When: Saturday, Nov. 24, at 3 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 25, at 3 p.m. Gala reception Nov. 24 at 6 p.m.

Cost: $22 for matinee; $24 for evening

Learn more: Firehouse.org or methuenballetensemble.com

What: Dance Prism’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Where: Collins Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Shawsheen Road, Andover

When: Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2:30 p.m.

Cost: $18-$24

Learn more: collins-center.com/events, 978-371-1038, DancePrism.com (see website for other production dates and locations)

Other local productions:

New England Dance Ensemble, Saturday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 25, at 2 p.m. Windham High School Theater, 64 London Bridge Road Windham, N.H.

New England Civic Ballet, Friday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m. Rogers Center for the Performing Arts, Merrimack College, North Andover.

Boston Ballet, Nov. 23 to Dec. 30. The Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston.

Albany Berkshire Ballet, Saturday, Dec. 1, at 3 and 7 p.m. Collins Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Shawsheen Road, Andover.

Gate City Ballet, Saturday, Dec. 1, at 1 and 6 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 2, at 1 p.m. Stockbridge Theater at Pinkerton Academy, Derry, N.H.

Northeast Youth Ballet Friday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m. Collins Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Shawsheen Road, Andover.

Northern Ballet Theatre, Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. Keefe Auditorium, Elm Street, Nashua, N.H.