by Holly Jones
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Celebrating the great Sooner State, the Norman Ballet Company is performing “The Oklahoma Nutcracker” 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts, 1809 N. Stubbeman.
In it’s 12th year, “The Oklahoma Nutcracker” is the company’s unique version of “The Nutcracker,” taking its cues from Oklahoma history and nature.
“Our adaptation encourages pride in our state, set in the familiar sight of the Overholser Mansion drawing room,” said Marjorie Kovich, Norman Ballet Company artistic director and choreographer. “The concept is that an early Oklahoma family would be having their neighborhood Christmas Eve party within the framework of a classical ballet performance. It is a ballet for all Oklahomans performed by young aspiring Oklahoman dancers.”
The ballet is set during Christmas Eve in 1907 at the Overholser Mansion in Oklahoma City, where Henry and Anna Overholser and their children, Henry Ione and Henry Samuel, are hosting the neighborhood’s holiday party. Family friend and Opera Impresario Sam Shubert soon arrives, delighting the children with candy and magic tricks. Sam Shubert presents a special gift to Henry Ione — a wooden nutcracker dressed as a soldier.
As the festivities end, Henry Ione cradles her beloved nutcracker and drifts to sleep. At the stroke of midnight, she awakes to a strange new world and is led by her nutcracker prince on a journey through an Oklahoma winterscape, arriving at the Oklahoma prairie as the sun sets. There she meets the Sand Plum Fairy who invites Henry Ione to sit atop a Rose Rock Throne while characters drawn from Oklahoma wildlife — the scissortail flycatcher, king snake, tall prairie grass, Indian paintbrushes, and a Mama Armadillo and her babies — dance to the Tchaikovsky score in her honor.
Returning as guest artists this year are Madalina Stoica and Ovidiu Ianco, senior soloists from the Tulsa Ballet Theatre. They will dance the leading roles as the Sand Plum Fairy and her Prince.
Doug Carlton, performing as Sam Shubert, has portrayed the character for the last three years.
“I am so proud to be playing this role and consider it an honor to be allowed to do it,” Carlton said. “He brings the nutcracker in to Henry Ione and also gets to do magic tricks and some dancing. He’s mysterious, but fun.”
Amy Newton, performing as Mrs. Overholser, said the production is unique from other Nutcracker performances since all dancers represent Oklahoma state treasures.
Newton has danced in 11 of the 12 performances and said it is one of her favorite yearly traditions. This year she has the privilege of dancing alongside her daughter, Analynn.
Many of the high school and college-aged dancers in the cast have previously performed in the children’s roles, and make great mentors for the younger dancers. There are approximately 60 dancers in the cast, ranging in age from 7 to those in their 50s.
Kovich said the company is constantly adding to the production design each year, with the most recent addition being a growing Christmas tree for the Act I set. The ballet also is re-choreographed each year to show off that year’s dancers’ skills.
“The audience will take home the great holiday experience that comes with attending the traditional ‘Nutcracker’ ballet, but in addition, our audiences will marvel at how the traditional story and beautiful Tchaikovsky score could be adapted to include Oklahoman themes of history and nature,” Kovich said.
Norman Ballet Company is performing “The Oklahoma Nutcracker” 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts, 1809 N. Stubbeman.
Individual seats are $20 per person. A block of seating can be reserved at a family rate of four for $60. Tickets can be purchased at ticketstorm.com or by calling 1-866-966-1777.
Pre-performance activities include the annual Sand Plum Fairy Tea Party, beginning at 1 p.m., in the Studio Theater. The event features a storyteller, crafts for children and a visit from the Sandplum Fairy and her Prince. Catering is by Althea’s Vault Cafe and Bakery. Special to this year’s tea party is a visit from Santa Claus.
Tea party tickets are $18 per person. An adult must accompany all children. Tickets can be purchased at ticketstorm.com or by calling 1-866-966-1777.
Ticket holders are encouraged to attend a free, pre-performance presentation of photos and stories of the Overholser Mansion and the Henry Overholser family, led by Preservation Oklahoma. The presentation begins 1:45 p.m. in the John Clinton Theater. Reservations to attend this event may be made by calling Tanya Branscum at 405-317-1372.
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