Recreating a Christmas classic on P.E.I.

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Sally Cole
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When Reasha Walsh was searching for holiday shows, her thoughts kept returning to her memories of watching The Nutcracker on television as a child.

“I remember enjoying the ballet and the beautiful music as well as feeling a sense of wonderment when I saw all the toys (come to life),” says Walsh, artistic director of Spotlight Theatre in Summerside.

About the same time she discovered that a new musical theatre version of The Nutcracker had been written, so she decided to mount it with her students.

“It personifies Christmas. But it’s just a bit away from the (well-known classic),” says Walsh, of the holiday production that plays today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside.

This version tells the story of Marie, who is offered a nutcracker by her godfather, Uncle Drosselmeyer, on Christmas Eve. At midnight, after the celebrations are over, Marie watches a miracle: the Christmas tree begins to grow, the toys come to life and all the soldiers come under Nutcracker’s command. A few minutes later, the Mouse King and his army of mice declare war.

“Nutcracker flies to Marie’s rescue and saves her from the Mouse King. After the defeat of the Mouse King, we meet his wife, the Mouse Queen. So there’s an extra layer of vendetta. And, without giving too much of it away, it’s a neat story. We’ve even got two sword fights in it,” says the director, who is pulling out all the stops and adding all the bells and whistles to make this her best holiday show yet.

“We have 60 cast members. Besides the leads, there’s Clara, Marie’s Christmas doll, Feline Legation, a cat she gets at Christmas, and our Ballerina, plus a whole cast of Snow Fairies and Sugar Plum Fairies.

“Basically, Marie meets these characters and they take her to Toyland where there’s a cast of toys, candy canes and gingerbread. So, the show basically turns into Christmas,” says Walsh.

Watching the production come to life is thrilling for Dominique Lapierre, who plays Marie.

“It’s beautiful. There’s lots of singing and dancing and the sets are gorgeous. And there’s a bunch of little Sugar Plum Fairies that steal the show when they dance,” says Lapierre who is excited to play the lead.

“I’m getting more experience than I ever have before. It’s so much fun to be in the spotlight,” she says.

Jennifer Egan, who plays the Mouse Queen, is also thrilled.

“The best part about the whole thing is working with people of all ages. I’m an adult who hasn’t been on stage since high school and the youngest is three. Everyone is having such a blast,” she says.

While the production has all the wonderful things associated with the ballet, like the music by Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker Suite, this adaptation has a different twist.

“They’ve written lyrics to the classical music, which is something not normally done. So, trying to get the singing down has been an interesting challenge,” says Walsh.

Egan agrees.

“Especially for the older cast members, who have heard the music since childhood. It’s difficult for us to figure out where the words are supposed to go.

“But, now that we know the words, the songs have greater significance. They have added more beauty to the story,” she says.

AT A GLANCE

If you are going

What: The Nutcracker

Where: Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside.

When: Today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside.

Tickets: Contact the box office at 888-2500 or toll free, 1-800-708-6505.

Website: Go to www.spotlighttheatrecompany.ca. 

Organizations: Harbourfront Theatre, Spotlight Theatre

Geographic location: Summerside.Tickets

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