The University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance’s quadrennial production of “The Nutcracker” has been growing with every rendition, and this year is no exception.
More than 200 dancers, musicians, singers and technicians from the University of Wyoming and the Laramie community are part of the production, which also features a new piece of scenery and new costumes for the “Waltz of Winter’s Flowers” in Act II.
The show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6-8 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the College of Arts and Sciences auditorium. Tickets are $16 for the public, $13 for seniors and $8 for students. A special showing for Albany County students is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 7.
The popular classic ballet is about a young girl who receives a nutcracker for Christmas that inspires a fantastical dream that includes snowflakes, mice, soldiers, flowers, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince.
Based on a 19th-century fairy tale, it premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a score written by Tchaikovsky. The ballet was first performed in the United States in 1944 and became a Christmas tradition when choreographer George Balanchine produced it with the New York City Ballet in 1954.
This year’s production is directed by dance professor Marsha Knight, who was joined in the choreography by associate professor Jennifer Deckert. Michael Griffith directs the UW Symphony Orchestra, with accompaniment by the UW Lab School Treble Choir under the direction of Jennifer Mellizo.
Knight first produced “The Nutcracker” at UW in 1988, with a traditional European setting. This is the eighth time it’s been produced, with the Department of Theatre and Dance settling on once every four years for the undertaking so dancers and musicians can experience it once during their collegiate careers.
“Their acquaintance with the piece and their having experienced the piece is a great asset in their education,” she said.
In 2006, in collaboration with costume designer Lee Hodgson and scenic designer Ron Steger, the production was reworked and given a new setting in 1890s Laramie at the Ivinson Mansion, starring a fictitious daughter of Edward and Jane Ivinson.
An outside snowy scene depicts the mansion, which stands on Ivinson Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets. The Western theme continues with outlaws and cavalry.
“Instead of the opulent-looking European costumes you often see in the initial party scene, we have a more plain Victorian look to the piece,” Knight said.
Steger, now retired, has been working on scenic backdrops since that time as funding allows. The last piece was completed this fall and makes its debut this year.
“It’s like revealing a piece of art,” Knight said. “It’s stunningly beautiful.”
The new drop creates a poinsettia-themed background for the “Waltz of the Flowers,” which the department has renamed “Waltz of Winter’s Flowers.” New costumes accompany the new background.
“It’s a real beautiful moment in the evolution of the ballet,” Knight said.
The production includes a cast of 46 adult dancers from UW, including several high school students. The cast also includes 43 children as young as seven, some of them new to a dance production. They represent every school in town, plus students who are home-schooled.
“It’s a production of the Department of Theatre and Dance that embraces community involvement,” Knight said.
She said the department and the community take great pride in “The Nutcracker.”
“There is good fun to be had with placing the ballet within our community, with scenes that we can associate within our unique environment, that work within the tradition of this ballet,” she said.