Give yourself and others an unforgettable gift this holiday season
By Sue Baldani
The Nutcracker has become a beloved holiday tradition for many families over the years. The New Jersey Ballet Company (NJBC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary performance at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown.
Assistant Director of NJBC, Paul McRae, was actually in the initial production 50 years ago at the age of 14. “In our production, we have magic, we have explosions, we have a battle scene – we have something for everyone,” he says. “It’s a really heartwarming, uplifting storyline and a good way to introduce someone who is not familiar with ballet. It’s just eye candy for the audience.”
Managing Director of NJBC, David Tamaki, who has developed some new choreography for this year’s performance, has also been involved with the Nutcracker for many years. “I performed my first Nutcracker when I was 5, so this year will be 35 years of me participating,” he says.
In a normal year, NJBC performs throughout the state from Bergen County down to Cape May, and it does a number of performances at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, he adds.
“In 1971, George Tomal, Joseph Carow and I believed New Jersey Ballet, which was established in 1958, was well-positioned to present a holiday tradition to New Jerseyans,” says Carolyn Clark, who founded NJBC. “Hence the birth of New Jersey Ballet’s Nutcracker. Messrs. Tomal and Carow created the choreography, which we still perform today, and the great Edward Villella was our first Cavalier!
“And today, we have been continuing their legacy at the beautiful Mayo Performing Arts Center. Hearing the roar of the crowds and seeing the standing ovations at the end of each performance is priceless.” Carolyn also thanks the patrons for their support.
In this enchanting story, which is set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score performed live by New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, young Clara is given a colorful nutcracker at a party, and after she goes to bed, a magic spell takes effect. In the ensuing storyline, fantastical characters such as giant mice, child-size soldiers, a Sugar Plum Fairy, and of course, the Nutcracker, who turns into a handsome prince, cavort and dance on stage to the audience’s delight. It’s a tale that transcends time, and resonates with people of all ages, sexes and religions. When it’s over, it also lets the audience translate what really happened in their own way.
“It’s up to everybody’s interpretation to decide if it’s a dream [that Clara has] or if it really happened,” says Marketing Director, Kotoe Kojima-Noa, who has been with NJBC since 2001.
Catherine Whiting, one of the company’s dancers who has portrayed Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy, grew up in South Orange and has been with NJBC for 22 years, first as a child in the NJBC School. She loves performing in the Nutcracker and at MPAC.
“MPAC is very welcoming to the New Jersey Ballet Company,” she says. “We’ve been performing there for decades and it’s such a beautiful theater. And I know audience members love going to Morristown for the shopping and the restaurants – it really makes for a full experience. It brings me joy to know that my audience is having a really great day and I get to finish it off for them with phenomenal storytelling.”
The Mayo Performing Arts Center is also close to home and very reasonably priced. Along with ample parking, there is a train station within walking distance for those who prefer to leave the car behind.
Whether experiencing the Nutcracker for the 50th time or the first time, the magic never gets old. See it on your own, with your loved one, or with your entire family. It will be a performance you won’t forget for a long time, and you may even dream about the Nutcracker yourself. Or maybe it won’t be a dream at all!
For more information and to buy your tickets, go to https://www.mayoarts.org/
Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine published in New Jersey.