Beth Fowler’s ‘The Nutcracker’ celebrates 30 years

The Beth Fowler Dance Company members performing a scene from "The Nutcracker"

DeKALB – For 30 years, the Beth Fowler Dance Company, with the Beth Fowler School of Dance has ushered in the magic of the holiday season, presenting the “The Nutcraker” ballet.

And this year, the celebration promises still more magic, as the dancers and artists of the dance company mark the 30th “Pearl” Anniversary of sharing the beauty and wonder of this holiday tradition.

The iconic ballet will once again open the Beth Fowler Dance Company’s performance season, with four performances at DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. The curtain will rise at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.

The ballet, featuring the music of Tchaikovsky, tells the story of young Clara who receives a toy soldier nutcracker at her family Christmas party. That night, her dreams take her into a world where the nutcracker comes to life and defeats the Rat King in a midnight battle. The Nutcracker is transformed into a prince, and escorts Clara on a magical adventure through a snowy forest into the Land of Sweets.

Five years ago, for the 25th anniversary celebration, the dance company added new props, scenery and special effects, including artificial “snow” falling on the stage and select seating in the auditorium. For the 30th anniversary, BFDC will continue to enhance the magic, with a host of new costumes and other surprises.

Beth Fowler, artistic director and founder of both BFSD and the Dance Company, said she looks forward to welcoming the community to the current production, while remembering those in the past.

“This is always one of our most special times of the years,” Fowler, who has choreographed and directed the production since its inception, said in a news release.

“But this Christmas will be even more special, as we welcome in so many company alumni and friends, old and new, to join with our current performers and celebrate our current show and remember all of the amazing Nutcrackers and holidays that have come before.”

Fowler said the weekend will include a special dance company alumni and community reception following the Saturday matinee performance. Guests can enjoy hors d’oeuvres and photo displays of past productions.

The show will feature some familiar faces, including veteran stage performer Phil Masterton of Rockford returning again to play the central role of Herr Drosselmeyer.

Masterton is no stranger to the stage, having performed for 20 years on Broadway, at theaters in Chicago, on London’s West End, and in traveling productions of such hit shows as “Cats” and “Showboat.”

Other familiar names will again participate in key roles off stage, including Alex Nerad, the Egyptian Theatre’s executive director and lighting designer.

Nerad has designed lights for Fowler Company shows for the past 20 years.

He said he has most enjoyed “taking a long-running traditional ballet and continually enhancing it with modern technology.”

The modern high-tech stage lights and effects will only serve to enhance the beauty brought to the stage by the company’s lead dancers, including Reegan DeBarba of DeKalb, who will dance the role of Clara.

A sophomore at DeKalb High School, DeBarba said she recognizes that she is just one in a long line of amazing dancers who has taken on the iconic role. And she said she is looking forward to being able to put her own personality into the part.

“Nutcracker is a really big part of Christmas for us,” DeBarba said in the release. “It may be basically the same, but it’s new and different every year. And when you watch it, you know it’s Christmas time.”

DeBarba will partner on stage with Chance Miller of Cortland, who will dance the role of the Nutcracker Prince.

DeBarba will be joined in the production by dozens of fellow BFDC dancers, including Noelle Sharp, 17, of Sycamore; Lorraine Robinson, 17, of DeKalb; and Mia Biesiadecki, 16, of Cortland.

Sharp, a senior at Sycamore High School, will dance the role of the Dewdrop Fairy, leading the show-stopping scene, The Waltz of the Flowers.

Sharp said she was excited to bring the role to life, as she said in many ways it is the perfect culmination of 14 years of dancing in “The Nutcracker” with both BFSD and the Dance Company.

“After my first year in company, I just had this feeling that this is going to be my senior solo,” Sharp said in the release. “And with the anniversary, it’s extra special.”

Biesiadecki, a junior at DeKalb High School, will dance the role of the Snow Queen. She said the awe-inspiring role is one she has long wanted to take on, so she can share the magic of the season with the audience.

Robinson, a senior at DeKalb High School, will dance the challenging role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, which closes the performance with a crowd-thrilling grand pas de deux. She will partner in the dance with Ben Fowler of Kingston, who will dance the role of the Sugar Plum Cavalier, as well as the roles of the Snow King and Spanish King.

“Sugar Plum has always been my dream role,” Robinson said in the release.

She said it will be an amazing way to close out her career of dancing in the Fowler Company’s “Nutcracker.”

Mykah Lorenty of Kingston will dance the role of Fritz.

Company dancer Maddie Lemp of St. Charles will perform as the Christmas Fairy.

Violet Baird of Sycamore will dance the role of the Arabian Queen, accompanied by Brandon Fowler as the Arabian King.

Maddy Shannon of St. Charles and Addie Gatza of Hampshire will each dance the role of the Rat King, dueling with the Nutcracker Doll, who will be portrayed by Kelsey McGraw of Cortland.

Other members of the cast include company soloists in various roles and students from the Beth Fowler School of Dance in children’s roles.

Choreography is by Beth Fowler, assisted by Brooke Fowler and Rachael Kollins-Merchut. Original choreography in the grand pas de deux is by Lev Ivanos.

Reserve tickets can be purchased in advance.

All children’s tickets include a “Meet & Greet” backstage after the show, for a keepsake photo with the cast. Guests can come to the front of the stage after the performance to be escorted on stage behind the main curtain.

To purchase tickets, visit www.BethFowlerDanceCompany.com or www.EgyptianTheatre.org. Tickets also may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before each performance.

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