The Marilyn Sanders Performing Arts Performance Team will be participating in this year’s inaugural performance of “The Magic City Nutcracker” at the Tyson Theatre at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. While most productions of similar stature reap the monetary benefits for themselves through fundraisers, this is the only nonprofit, volunteer-run agency in that area offering a portion of its proceeds to local charities through the Vestavia Hills’ church.
The idea for this “community nutcracker” was developed by artistic director Stephanie Thompson Rangel, academy director Kelly Avery and assistant director Angel White. Rangel has practiced with the local youth twice a month with rehearsals beginning in August. Rather than have the girls spend money and time on the road driving to Birmingham every week, Rangel decided to work with them during four-hour increments at each practice.
“There were a couple of kids from Jasper who had done a ‘Nutcracker’ or a performance here in Birmingham before, and I saw how difficult it was for them and their parents to drive them in every week. The cost with travel and doing the production was astronomical, so I basically founded this ‘Nutcracker’ this year,” Rangel said. “It’s purpose is really for the dancers and the community, not as a profitable fundraising thing because a lot of studios will do a ‘Nutcracker’ just to sell a bunch of tickets and make a bunch of money.
“So, what I did is, I went to my other directors and said, ‘You know, I have this really special group. They’re lovely dancers; they work really hard. I’ll go out and work with them,’” she continued. “ ... It’s kind of a cool opportunity for them to meet other dancers their age.”
The performance consists of ages 5 years old to seniors in high school, along with professional adult dancers, singers and actors.
According to The Vestavian, “‘The Magic City Nutcracker’ is an inventive and stylish resetting of the traditional holiday ballet that entertains ballet aficionados and newcomers alike.”
The Jasper performance art team that will be performing in “The Magic City Nutcracker,” along with their number of years of dance experience, are as follows: Sarah Beth Ganey, 14 years; Eve McCluskey, 10 years; Mattie Lewis, 10 years; Eden Tittle, 5 years; Lorin O’Rear, 8 years; Holly Woods, 8 years; Grace Picariello, 8 years; Krissy Burgett, 6 years; Brittany Cagle, 14 years; and Libby Tucker, 8 years. The girls range in age from 10 to 16 years old.
Ganey, who is a sophomore at Walker High School, said they will be performing more of a contemporary ballet style. “Dance is my passion in life. ... I am so excited about dancing in ‘The Magic City Nutcracker’ because I have always loved ‘The Nutcracker,’ and it will be my first chance to work with professional dancers.”
“This is going to be my first time actually, so I’m very thrilled and excited. I think everyone in the whole play is wonderful,” said 11-year-old Woods.
A few of the girls have performed in a variety of other renditions of “The Nutcracker” before, but this particular one is on a different level.
“It hasn’t been my first time performing, but I just love being with my friends and being able to do this with all the people I know and have known to love,” 11-year-old O’Rear said.
Lewis, also 11, added, “I’ve been in ‘The Nutcracker’ (not ‘The Magic City Nutcracker’) three times, and I just love it. It’s fun and cool, and I love to dance with my friends.”
“The Magic City Nutcracker” will hold performances today at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Tyson Theatre at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, located at 2061 Kentucky Ave. in Vestavia Hills.
For more information, visit the website www.magiccitynutcracker.wix.com/magiccitynutcracker.