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OH students help bring ‘Nutcracker’ magic to life

Sydney Mack with The Nutcracker
Posted On: Friday, December 6, 2019

Group shot of ballet performers

Back row (left to right): Breckin Miller, Ashley Wang, Sophie Heidenreich, Sydney Mack, Sophia DelVerne, Isabella Leonardi-Wilkins, Emily Mack, Ellie Kammeyer, and Kadin Brown

Front row (left to right): Cora Walker, Audrey Kelm, Katie Davis, Coral Thompson, Emerson Pfeiffer, Sophie Chernow, and Allison Chen.

By Kevin Merrill

When the Toledo Ballet presents four performances of "The Nutcracker" Dec. 13-15, appearing on stage in numerous roles will be 17 Ottawa Hills students in grades ranging from 1st to 10th. And front and center will be 9th grader Sydney Mack in the starring role of Clara.

Sydney, 15, has been taking ballet lessons for more than a decade, and has been in the past eight Nutcracker shows produced by The Toledo Ballet. She felt some confidence after the audition, as she had previously auditioned for the lead role.

Sydney Mack with Nutcracker“I was ready to do it one more time since it is my last year,” Sydney said. (Clara is generally awarded to an 8th or 9th grader, roughly corresponding to the character’s age in the story.)

When auditions ended, Lisa Mayer-Lang, the show’s artistic director, allowed every student to ask for just one character they had been cast as. (In youth-staffed productions of “The Nutcracker,” students are assigned multiple roles to practice and perform.) So students rushed toward her, taking turns to hear roles such as Gingersnap, Tea Princess, Rickshaw Driver, House Mouse, Little Dragon, or Candy Cane. When it came to Sydney, “[Lisa] told me ‘Clara’ and gave me a big hug, and it was really exciting,” Sydney said.

While not a speaking role (there is only music and dancing in “The Nutcracker), Clara spends a considerable amount of time on stage; much of the early action centers around her and dreamlike sequences involving The Nutcracker-turned-Prince and the evil Mouse King. Clara’s brother Fritz, played by 7th grader Breckin Miller, also appears in many of the early scenes.

“You're the lead, so everyone's eyes are on you. That’s why my favorite scene is the party scene at the beginning because Clara is front and center for everything. She gets to lead her friends and it's really fun,” she said. “I’ve been leads in other shows … but saying you’ve danced as Clara in ‘The Nutcracker’ is special.”

Sydney will star as Clara in two of four performances: a student performance on Friday, Dec. 13, for Toledo Public Schools’ students, home-schooled students, and area residential organizations; and a 7 p.m. show on Saturday, Dec. 14, that is open to the public. (Two students are normally cast as Clara; sharing the duties this year is Kiera Lang, who performs the lead at the 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday finale. All shows are at the Stranahan Theater.)

For years, the show has featured many students from Ottawa Hills, as well as a few Village adults, including Ann Heckler, who has been in the production annually since 2008. Here are mini profiles of this year's cast:

Emerson Pfeiffer

  • Grade: 1
  • Character(s) in the show: Baby Angel and Bunny
  • Favorite scene: “Battle scene because I like the noise!”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “That I get to fly!”

Allison Chen

  • Grade: 2
  • Character(s) in the show: Baby Angel, Little Mouse, and Tea Princess
  • Favorite scene: “The Baby Angel scene because I am in it.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “I am in it!”

Sophie Chernow

  • Grade: 2
  • Character(s) in the show: Baby Angel and Bunny
  • Favorite scene: “Snow scene because of the dancing.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “Waiting a long time to be part of this special show.”

Katie Davis

  • Grade: 3
  • Character(s) in the show: Baby Angel, Bunny, and Gingersnap
  • Favorite scene: “Ginger Snap because I have an awesome long part!”
  • What you like most about being in this show:  “I love to dance and it is so much fun. Everyone is so nice! And I love to be in front of people.”

Coral Thompson

  • Grade: 3
  • Character(s) in the show: Little Soldier and Little Dragon
  • Favorite scene: “Battle scene because there is a lot of action.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “I get to do new characters. I just like being in it because it’s something very fun to do. I love to dance and I love to practice my leaps!” 

Ellie Kammeyer

  • Grade: 4
  • Character(s) in the show: Big Angel and House Mouse
  • Favorite scene: “All. They are all so creative! Also, they are so lively.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “It is a creative show with lots of imagination in it.”

Audrey Kelm

  • Grade: 4
  • Character(s) in the show: Party Girl and Gingersnap Understudy

Kadin Brown

  • Grade: 5
  • Character(s) in the show: Party Boy and Rickshaw Driver
  • Favorite scene: “I love the tea scene because I love the energy of it!”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “I like being able to perform in front of people.”

Sophia DelVerne

  • Grade: 5
  • Character(s) in the show: Party Girl, Little Soldier, and Gingersnap
  • Favorite scene: “Candy canes because I love the music.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “The people and performing for many people.”
  •  

Aryelle Genot

  • Grade: 5:
  • Character(s) in the show: House Mouse

Cora Walker

  • Grade: 5
  • Character(s) in the show: Big Angel
  • Favorite scene: “The party scene. I like when the soldier and harlequin dolls come out of their boxes.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “I like the costumes and I make new friends.”

Isabella Leonardi-Wilkins

  • Grade: 6
  • Character(s) in the show: Party Girl, Big Angel, Little Soldier, and Candy Cane
  • Favorite scene: “The candy canes because it is very energetic and fun to watch.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “It makes me focus on dance and is a fun working environment.”

Breckin Miller

  • Grade: 7
  • Character(s) in the show: Fritz and Tea Lead
  • Favorite scene: “The battle scene because there is lots of movement and energy. It also includes dancers young and old and is really cool to watch.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “Working with everyone. I love combining acting and dancing.”

Ashley Wang

  • Grade: 7
  • Character(s) in the show: Clara's Friend, Big Soldier, Candy Cane, and Flower understudy
  • Favorite scene: “Party scene because it’s the most fun and entertaining.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “I love the cast and the crew members that help get everything perfect. I also love the fun and loving atmosphere as we rehearse together and celebrate together.”

Emily Mack

  • Grade: 8
  • Character(s) in the show: Lead Angel, Clara's Friend, Big Soldier, and Candy Cane
  • Favorite scene: “Angels because I am a lead in that scene.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “It just puts me in the holiday spirit every year and I get to do it with my favorite people.”

Sydney Mack

  • Grade: 9
  • Character(s) in the show: Clara, Columbine understudy, Soldier Doll, Snowflake U/S, Flute, and Tea Lead
  • Favorite scene: “Snow scene beause it is such a beautiful scene and the dancing is always amazing! Dancing it gives you so much joy!”
  • What you like most about being in this show: All of the people make rehearsals and everything about it a blast! Also, our teachers make the environment so encouraging and positive.”

Sophie Heidenreich

  • Grade: 10
  • Character(s) in the show: Understudy everything!
  • Favorite scene: “Snow. It is beautiful and so fun to dance.”
  • What you like most about being in this show: “The people that you meet and become closer with during the whole season. And the feeling of accomplishment when the show is put on stage.”

 

About the show:

The Toledo Ballet and the Toledo Symphony perform three pubic shows: Dec. 14 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $30-$58.

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