There’s something new to Lafayette Society for Performing Arts’ presentation of “The Nutcracker” each year, and this year’s, the show’s 29th with the company, is no exception.
“Every year the choreography is slightly different, there’s nothing that’s the same,” said Lafayette Dance Academy artistic director Amy Orr. “The choreography evolves each year.”
This year also will have more obvious changes with new costumes and set designs. The LSPA is in the second of a three-year campaign to replace and refurbish all the costumes used in the ballet, some that date back to the show’s opening almost 30 years ago.
Next year marks the 30th anniversary for the LSPA’s production of “The Nutcracker,” and the goal of the campaign is to have all new costumes ready for the anniversary production. New costumes will be included for several dances this year, but every year means alterations and fitting for all the costumes used by each of the players.
Volunteers spend countless hours sewing, repairing and fitting costumes to the cast, which this year is more than 225 people. Burma Wright, who has been sewing for 50 years, began helping out the LSPA because her granddaughter is part of the cast this year.
“I came in to bring my granddaughter and somebody asked for my help – ‘sew this up’ – and I did,” Wright said. “It was fun and it gave me a sense of satisfaction to contribute.”
Terry Lord, who has been sewing about three years, said she also began helping because her daughter was involved in the ballet. Kathy Tilley just began sewing to help out with the ballet, which her daughter has been a part of for 12 years.
“Anybody who wants to come help out can do it,” Tilley said. “You don’t have to have a daughter in the ballet.”
There are about a dozen volunteers working under costume mistress Sheree McCurry. Tilley said the work adds appreciation for the end result on stage.
Orr said the costume work is time-consuming and all the 225 costumes have to be altered each year to fit dancers and usually have to be taken in at least once between the time practice starts in September and the show begins, because dancers lose weight while training. She described the volunteers as like her “little elves” getting everything ready before Christmas.
For the dancers, the new costumes add some “bling” to the production. Jade Williford, who has been in the show for nine years, will be on stage in a new Dewdrop Fairy costume for the Waltz of Flowers, a dance she loves.
Will Wooten said his role as the Nutcracker Prince is his first foray onto the stage, other than with choir.
“It was really unusual for me,” Wooten said. “I had to get used to it, but it’s something where I can emote myself.”
Marcus Bivins, who plays the Nutcracker’s rival, the Mouse King, also is a new dancer to the show. The LaGrange High School football player said the dances are enjoyable to watch and “beautiful.” He said the sword fight between his character and Wooten’s is challenging, but “legit.”
The sword fight is “probably the most physical thing I have to do,” Wooten said. “I have to hit the sword, and not Marcus’ head – which is hard, because he has seven.”
Bivins’ seven-headed Mouse King mask is among the new props on stage this year.
This year also features professional dancers with the young cast. Nick Hagelin lives in Atlanta, trained at the American Ballet in New York and was recently in Los Angeles promoting his new music album. James LaRussa is from the Atlanta Ballet and a freshman at Emory University. The two men have come to practice with the LSPA dancers in preparation for Friday’s opening.
Skye Mauldin, who dances with LaRussa in the show, said it can be intimidating at first to dance with a more experienced partner, but after practicing and getting in sync on stage, “it comes together perfectly.”
For Lydia Duquette and Mitzi Anderson, both seniors, this will be their last performance of “The Nutcracker” with LSPA, and they have found themselves in the mentoring roles for the younger performers.
“We have to step up and be the role models,” Anderson said. “We have to be motivational figures.”
Anderson added that the new costumes and backdrops add a new dimension to the show.
“It’s almost 3D,” she said.
New set pieces were designed by DeDe Wilson, and Bill Rich, who has done work at the Columbus River Center, is new for lighting design. Orr said the new elements gives the annual show something fresh for audiences.
With the double cast, Anderson, who plays the Sugarplum Fairy in one cast, said it gives players more opportunities to practice with someone. Duquette, who plays the Sugarplum Fairy in the other cast, said that it keeps the players on their toes.
“And with a double cast, people need to come out and see it twice,” Anderson said of the show.
Going to the show?
•The Lafayette Society for Performing Arts’ presentation of “The Nutcracker” performs at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Troup High School Fine Arts Center. Reserved seat tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students, and general admission tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. Call LSPA at 706-882-9909 or go by the Black Box Theater at 214 Bull St. for tickets.
•Anyone who wishes contribute to the costume campaign may make a donation to the LSPA with a note that it be used for “The Nutcracker” costume campaign, or may volunteer to sew by calling the LSPA. The dance academy also is looking for contributions for costumes for its spring show of “The Little Mermaid.”