Dragons, dancing mice, fireworks, a rat queen rappelling onto the stage from the rafters: just a sampling of the spectacles from this year’s presentation of The Homer Nutcracker ballet.
Ever since its inception in 1989, the Homer Nutcracker has enthralled audiences with audacious set designs and elaborate choreography. The local telling of this classic story showcases young talent and provides a venue for community gathering for Homer and the Kenai Peninsula.
This year’s 30th presentation of the annual event did not disappoint.
This year’s show included 66 young performers, many of whom, such as show stars Ruby Allen, Katie Clark and Daisy Kettle, were show veterans with more than a decade of Homer Nutcracker experience each. Another veteran was Collin Trummel, dazzling the stage as the Nutcracker Prince. Having studied under renowned ballet instructors, Trummel is pursuing a career as a professional dancer but returned to the Homer Nutcracker stage this year for the show’s leading male role.
Nearly as exciting as the incredible talent of show veterans, however, is witnessing the effervescence of the youngest cast members as they conquered charismatic roles such as dancing mice or whirling bumblebees with delightful enthusiasm. One cannot help but wonder which of these talented newcomers may develop into tomorrow’s stars.
Though no member of the audience—several hundred strong on any given night—could fail to recognize the tenacity and capacity of the stage performers, perhaps less apparent is the incredible volume of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to breathe the show to life. From directors and stage crew to parent volunteers, countless hours go into each and every performance. In this year’s program, play directors Jennifer Norton and Breezy Berryman offered a conservative estimate that 87,900 people have been involved in the Homer Nutcracker on some level over its 30-year lifespan.
There can be little doubt that The Nutcracker is an international holiday institution. The story’s origin dates back to the 1816 story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. It was from this source material that Russian choreographers (accompanied by a now-famous score by celebrated Romantic composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) forged the first ballet performance which premiered on stage in December 1892.
Since these prototype years the popularity of The Nutcracker has grown, enjoying a surge of nearly 69% since 2010 according to an article in Crain’s New York Business. The article further elucidated the play’s importance to major ballet companies, claiming that “a production of The Nutcracker can bring in anywhere from 40% to 45% of a ballet company’s revenue.”
The timeless nature of The Nutcracker was evident in the Homer production. The atmosphere was strong with a sense of historical significance on both a local scale and beyond. Proud parents and excited siblings filled nearly every seat, faces ripe with anticipation and delight. Spectators of all ages gasped and applauded every plot turn and impressive dance score. Witnessing this enthusiasm, it seems fair to assume that the tradition of The Nutcracker, both internationally and right here in Southern Alaska, is in no danger of fading away.