A cast of more than 100 performers will take the stage Dec. 14 and 15 at the Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center as River Region Ballet presents The Nutcracker, one of Christmas time’s most iconic traditions.
The full show will take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, while Dec. 15 will bring the weekend to a wrap with a 2 p.m. show. The ballet will also hold a special presentation of Nutcracker to St. Charles Parish public school third graders on Dec. 13, with a pair of abbreviated shows, and there will be a special children’s matinee on Dec. 14 at 2 p.m., also an abbreviated performance geared for younger attendees.
River Region Ballet has been putting on The Nutcracker for 25 years, and this year’s promises to be perhaps its most spectacular to date, with this being the first time held at the Lafon Center.
“It will be especially amazing at the Lafon Center … we’ll have special effects that people won’t be expecting,” said Nicole Hall-Mitchell of River Region Ballet. “All of our cast are from within the River Region and most of them are children. It’ll have some acting and some beautiful, classic ballet.”
She said the set will be bigger than ever as well, noting that its construction has been a “long labor of love” led by Shelly Keller, while crediting choreographer Heidi Adams for helping the girls and boys get ready to perform and make the most of that big stage and scenery.
Mitchell believes The Nutcracker has endured and been so embraced as the years have gone on because the tone and atmosphere effortlessly pulls you into the Christmas season.
“I really believe The Nutcracker is Christmas,” Mitchell said. “The music is so traditionally Christmas. It’s that warm, wonderful, Tchaikovsky music that brings you back to your childhood. It’s one of those things in St. Charles Parish where so many of us grew up going to see it. For my family, my daughter’s been dancing in The Nutcracker for seven years. It’s what we do for Christmas and how we know it’s Christmas time.”
There’s also an added benefit for the children attending the show at the Dec. 13 performance for parish students. Through a partnership between the ballet and St. Charles Parish schools, the students will be able to attend the show but also do workshops with its actors, dancers and choreographers.
“The mission for the schools is to have the students be exposed to the arts, not just see the performance but be part of the performance,” Mitchell said. “And for River Region Ballet, it’s exciting because we want to involve every child in something bigger than themselves. It works out to a great partnership.”
The 2 p.m. Saturday performance will be what the ballet calls the “Sugar Plum Matinee,” followed by the “Sugar Plum Party” where the younger kids are invited to come on stage after and take pictures with the dancers, actors and props. There will also be a question and answer session and each audience member will be able to take home a special gift.