ASHLAND -- For over a century audiences have delighted in the music, dance, and drama that is The Nutcracker. This year marks the 27 th annual presentation of the beloved ballet by Ashland Regional Ballet (ARB).
The company will take the stage at Ashland’s Hugo Young Theatre on the campus of Ashland University on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Ashland University Box Office 419-289-5125 or online at ashland.edu/tickets.
The full cast boasts 102 dancers from the Ashland/Mansfield area and surrounding counties.
Principal roles will be danced by members of Ashland Regional Ballet with the role of Clara being danced by Megan Abel of Ashland. She will be partnered by fellow Ashlander, Landon Hyatt who will dance the role as Nutcracker Prince. They will join with the Sugar Plum Fairy, Erin Ekin of Galion and Cavalier; professional guest artist Hunter Hoffman appearing courtesy of Verb Ballets in Cleveland.
Ashland Regional Ballet Members in other principal roles are Senior Lucia Mancha- Flower Queen; Ryanne Hunt, Sarah Ison, Sami Steinhauser, and Allie Wentworth-Peppermint Queens; Anna Slade-Tea; Mikayla Jarvis - Marzipan; Emma Blake-Coffee; Erin Ekin-Pennywhistle; Audrey Rosby - Flower Attendant, and Megan Harrigan and Tara Tavalaee – Trepak.
Other ARB company members appearing prominently are Gisella Blake, Amelia Brown, Chloe Gingrich, Megan Hayes, Taylor Hill, Peyton Hyatt, Jennie Riffle, Katherine Stefaniuk, and Mariana Stefaniuk.
Special guests this year are former Ashland Regional Ballet members Christina Lindhout who will dance the role of Snow Queen, appearing courtesy of Verb Ballets of Cleveland; ARB alumnus Sabrina Lindhout – Chocolate, appearing courtesy of Inlet Dance Theater of Cleveland.
Jeff Haffner, of Ashland, has returned to reprise his role of Herr Drosselmeyer. He brings an extensive background to the production having an impressive career as a professional in theatre.
Also, appearing in principal roles are Mansfielder Dr. Bruce Sliney as Dr. Stahlbaum, with ARB alumni Jackie Zorich of Akron as Mrs. Stahlbaum, Jacob Slade of Ashland as The Shepherd, and Asher Stefaniuk of Nova as Fritz; and Kaitlyn Boals and Eleanor Merkel as Trepak. Opus II Dance Studio Director Ann Marie Benshoff-Todd will portray Nanny and Artistic Director Sarah Cyders will appear as Grandma Stahlbaum. Dr. John Moser of Ashland will be The Narrator, and ARB alumnus Elise Kulka will be The Butler.
In addition to the wonderful dancing by ARB company members, our audiences will be treated to an exceptionally strong supporting cast of area dance students who bring excitement and great energy to this historic favorite.
The production boasts original choreography by ARB Founder/Executive Director Hellie Schussler, staged by Sarah Cyders and Ann Marie Benshoff-Todd. Lighting design is by Don Pontious and set design is by Robbie Keplar, with properties designed and implemented by both Pontious & Keplar. Costuming by Margaret Minick-Blake, Kepler, Kathy Hout, and Jessica Hendershott.
Founder and Executive Director, Hellie Schussler notes, “Each Nutcracker season brings new joys and challenges. In 1992, on the 100th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's holiday favorite, ARB presented its first production of the full-length ballet and has performed it annually ever since.
"It seems impossible that we are now celebrating our 26th Nutcracker season. The Nutcracker has become a tradition for our dancers, as well as for many families in our area. We look forward to seeing new faces in the time-honored and familiar roles, as well as the joy of watching our artists grow from year to year in roles they have come to love. This production of The Nutcracker feels like coming home for Christmas. We invite you to come home to the Ashland Regional Ballet Nutcracker.”