Springfield Ballet celebrates its 40th anniversary season this year, and the company has presented an annual holiday production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker for 31 of those years. This year’s performances are December 16-19 at the Landers Theatre, but prior to that the company will offer “A Night for the Nutcracker,” a fundraising evening during which the new set will be revealed to the public.
According to Evan Bennett, Springfield Ballet Executive Director, “for the last two years we’ve been doing a capital campaign to create a new (Nutcracker) set.” The previous production dates from 2000, and adds Evan Bennett, while “the previous set was NOT in disrepair at all, we felt like the best thing to do was get ahead of it, get the new set made. The worst thing is if you get to a place where it’s in disrepair, so we felt like it was more responsible to go ahead and create the new set. We had the time to plan, and it wasn’t in any way an emergency situation.”
The new set was created by professional scenic designer Roger LaVoie of Melrose, Massachusetts, who was actually picked by Springfield Ballet patrons. The company sent out a call for designers in July 2015, receiving 32 submissions from around the country. After narrowing down the list to five designers, each was asked to submit a concept for a Nutcracker production. Springfield Ballet audiences then voted for their favorite design concept, and LaVoie’s was the one chosen.
And it will be revealed the night before the production actually opens, at the “Night for the Nutcracker” event Thursday Dec. 15 from 5:30 to 9:30pm at the Hotel Vandivort, 305 E. Walnut just west of the Landers. Evan says the set will be on view upstairs in the 4th-floor ballroom, but “we get to kind of take over the entire hotel—they’re being pretty generous to us!” There’s also a drop-off point at the Landers that evening, as kids will be entertained at a separate event at the theater. The adults can then go next door to the hotel, go upstairs and be greeted with champagne among other things. KY3’s Maria Neider is host for the event. There will be raffle baskets, some auction items—Little Theatre’s Beth Domann will serve as auctioneer—and then everyone will meet back at the Landers at 7:00 and view the new set for the first time. Tickets are $75 adults, $25 for children, with all proceeds benefiting the Ballet. Visit www.springfieldballet.org or call 862-1343 for information. Evan says they’re already close to capacity for this preview, “so if you want to come, now is the time.”
For that matter, there aren’t that many tickets left for the six Nutcracker performances. Says Evan Bennett, “this is pretty much the fastest-selling show we’ve ever seen—most performances only have single tickets left.” The Landers box office is handling ticket orders: 869-1334.
Evan describes designer Roger LaVoie as “a master of forced perspective (using various optical illusions to make objects appear closer or more distant than they really are)—the second-act drop in particular. It takes just a flat drop and turns it into a really magnificent, opulent space in The Land of Sweets. I think it’s something people will really be awed by.
“And on top of that, we actually requested that a certain portion of this production be Ozarks-inspired. So two of the drops are actually based scenes in the Ozarks or Springfield. The street scene, for instance, is a composite of historical views of downtown Springfield. It is very reminiscent of Historic Walnut Street. Roger LaVoie actually went to the History Museum and took photos from downtown Springfield to create that scene. The second scene that’s Ozarks-inspired is the snow scene, which is really beautifully done—trees draped with snow, very reminiscent of the Ozarks in winter.”
Evan Bennett says Springfield Ballet’s 40th anniversary “is like anyone’s 40th birthday—it’s a big celebration. So we’d love to see everybody come out.”