Ballet Western Reserve Company draws on history for "Golden Nutcracker"

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Back row (left to right): Alyssa Armstrong, Izzy Aey, Angie Phifer, Halle Moran, Caroline Ciferno. Middle row (left to right): Jena Styka, Lily Gelfand, Maeli Foley. Front row (left to right): Anastasia Johnson, Caroline Lacusky, Charli Littleton, Nicole Noakes.



Ballet Western Reserve, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year, has unearthed a piece of its own history and will put it back to use.

Sets from BWR’s 1970 production of “The Nutcracker” will be used in this Saturday’s production of the holiday classic.

The backdrops were found buried away in storage at Powers Auditorium, which was BWR’s home 40 years ago.

Virginia Hartman, artistic director of the downtown ballet school and performance company, explained what happened.

“Last year, when we were performing ‘Nutcracker’ at Powers, some of the stagehands that have worked backstage for years told me that they thought some of our backdrops were still stored away there, but they weren’t sure if they would be in good condition,” she said.

“In August, I received a call saying they were dropping off the backdrops for me. If it wasn’t for [house manager] Terry [Fetchet] and several of the guys from [stagehands] union local 101, we would have never known the backdrops existed, let alone be using them this year.”

BWR restored the sets and is using them for all performances.

It’s a fitting addition for this historic year.

“The Golden Nutcracker,” BWR’s version of the Tchaikovsky ballet, will be staged at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Powers. A special performance for schoolchildren took place Wednesday morning.

The production includes nearly 80 BWR students, age 7 to 17, who have been rehearsing for more than two months.

Though they form the core of the performance, Hartman has incorporated several collaborations with guest artists. They include Broadway performer John Scacchetti, a Mahoning Valley native who now lives in New York; Courteny Cochran, a BWR alumnus and current instructor at the school; and Jens Lee, a New Castle, Pa., native who has taught at BWR and performed with the company. Cochran will dance the Snow pas de deux with Lee.

Scacchetti performed in the 2001 Tony Award-winning revival of “42nd Street” and the 2008 revival of “Gypsy,” starring Patti LuPone. He also was in the casts of the touring productions of “42nd Street” and “My Fair Lady.”

Youngstown stage veteran James McClellan will return as the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer. The narrator will be Todd Hancock of Easy Street Productions.

Travis Manero, owner and instructor of Fred Astaire dance studio in Boardman, is returning to perform as the Spanish Hot Chocolate dancer. He will be partnering with Kelsi Darby, who also is performing the Arabian Coffee Variation.

“I am proud to be able to offer an outstanding production of this full-length holiday ballet,” said Hartman.

“Thanks to wonderful support from our sponsors, we were able to purchase some new costumes. My hope is that every year we add something new, always striving to create the best possible ‘Nutcracker’ production.”

At the conclusion of each show, a raffle will be held for the golden Nutcracker that was used on stage. It will be autographed by “Clara,” the child character played by Lexi Burdman.

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