The Nutcracker: A Look Ahead

“When I go to the Boston Ballet, it’s beautiful,” said Judith Wombwell, director and choreographer of The Nutcracker, “but when I watch this, I really feel like I’m part of a community.” Community is the perfect word to describe the united effort that has gone into Phillips Academy’s sixth production of The Nutcracker. Stagehands, lighting technicians, dancers varying in age and experience, the Theatre 280 class with instructor Billy Murray, volunteering faculty and countless others all came together to put on a show that will leave the audience eagerly anticipating its return next December. The future of The Nutcracker is yet to be determined, however, with the possibility of other productions under consideration. “The department is playing around with that idea… we’re really torn,” said Wombwell. Her opinion on discontinuing the ballet is undecided: “I’ve flip-flopped. I’m so emotional about it; we can’t talk about it until [this performance of] The Nutcracker’s over.” The Theatre and Dance Department has raised the question: should the community be participating in more original and diverse productions? “Some people are just antsy to do something different,” said Wombwell, who also cited the apparent declining interest in dance among young girls as a reason to discontinue the show. Plus, The Nutcracker is a “tremendous project” to fit in amid the conflicting schedules of the cast. “I’d say that it’s a lot of work,” said Wombwell. While the Nutcracker is a lot of work, it is also extremely rewarding, according to Margaret Bonaparte ’10 who plays a gingerbread person and an Arabian in the show. “It’s just a lot of fun…. It’s a lot of work, but it’s all starting to come together.” The Nutcracker is coming together in a much different way than previous performances. “The snow scene is my favorite scene,” said Wombwell. “Well, I love the music—I think it’s the most beautiful music.” This year, she has used the music differently—working a real snow pas de deux into the culmination of Act I for the first time in Wombwell’s 13 years choreographing The Nutcracker for Phillips Academy. “A classical pas de deux is the epitome of ballet technique,” said Wombwell. The structured duet requires a perfect male-female match-up—a role filled by Chris Massie ’10 and Sayer Mansfield ’10 as the Snow King and Queen. “The adagio involves slow sustained movements and complex turns and lifts,” said Wombwell, explaining the dance’s complexity. The Nutcracker’s pas de deux—the show’s biggest risk—is not to be missed. “Everyone should see it—actually, really and truly,” said the director/choreographer. “People will be impressed.” Along with a new element of ballet technique came new snow costumes. “We remade the snow costumes,” said Taylor Clarke ’10, a Theatre 280 student. The costuming class repainted the leotards, painted the bodices and attached streamers—all in order to create the desired magical effect. Much like everyone else involved in The Nutcracker, the costuming class put a lot of time and energy into getting the cast ready for the performance. “Most of us did two [costumes]. Putting on the streamers is ridiculously labor-intensive,” said Clarke. “We pretty much had to exactly remake the leotards… we painted all of it.” “The costume for the Snow Queen is also one of my favorites,” wrote Carolyn Calabrese ’09 in an email to The Phillipian. “It was remodeled this year and I think it looks fantastic. Also, the Spice Drops, who are a new addition to this year’s show, have equally exciting costumes to match their high energy dance.” Calabrese, who shares the lead role of Clara with Jen Chew ’10, expressed sadness at performing in her last Phillips Academy Nutcracker. “Performing gives me such a rush that I am definitely going to miss, but I am glad that in my last Nutcracker I have had the chance to dance the one role I never thought I would,” wrote Calabrese. The Nutcracker’s audience will most likely share her bittersweet feelings at the end of the performance—happy to have seen the product of all the talent and hard work that went into the show, but sad that the magic is over.