By Scott Meeker
It's a story that has become synonymous with the Christmas season - a romantic dream in which a young girl embarks on a magical journey with a wooden nutcracker come to life.
But for the Moscow Ballet, tradition alone doesn't cut it when it comes to the annual touring production of "The Great Russian Nutcracker."
"Every year, we add new elements to the show," said Akiva Talmi, who has served as the show's producer for the past 14 years. "That's why it's the best ("Nutcracker" production) in the world."
When the ballet is staged at 8 p.m. Monday at Memorial Hall, audiences will be treated to a show that has evolved significantly since the last tour.
Twelve feet tall and sporting three heads and a 30-foot wingspan, the Rat King is one of the most majestic and complex new additions to the production, Talmi said.
"The Rat King is discovered in three steps," he said. "It is a huge, puppet cocoon when it comes to center stage. It then comes out wrapped in its wings. In the third stage, the wings unwrap and flap back and forth.
"It takes up the entire stage and takes four people to make it work."
Another new element this year is a Russian nesting doll designed as a Trojan horse.
"It appears at the end of Act II," Talmi said. "It's a puppet within a puppet. At center stage, it stops and Trojans keep coming out of it."
Also new for 2006 is a cannon that fires roses for peace when the Nutcracker visits the Land of Peace and Harmony.
"We're donating it to the White House when the tour is finished," Talmi joked.
The all-Russian cast will be fronted by Anatoli Emelianov, the show's artistic director and choreographer, who stars as the Nutcracker. The show features hand-painted backdrops, props and puppets that ballet coordinators spent more than six months assembling, Talmi said.
"The dancers rehearse in Moscow from September to October and work with the new puppets and props," he said. "They arrived in the United States on Nov. 1, then spent three days adapting the show for the American stage before going on tour."
A unique feature of the 70-city tour is that it fills a variety of parts in the ballet - from party guests to angels, snowflakes and mice - with a number of local dance students in each city.
Karen Hollingsworth-Drouin, owner of Karen's Dance Studio in Joplin, said that 10 of her students will be featured in this year's production.
A representative from the Moscow Ballet conducted the local audition several months ago, and will work with the young dancers again on Monday before the production begins.
Hollingsworth-Drouin said that she served as the local children's coordinator for "The Great Russian Nutcracker" about five years ago.
"I could not believe how patient and nice (the Russian dancers) were with the kids. A lot of them didn't even speak English, but they were so gentle with those children."
It's rare, she said, that young dancers have the opportunity to work with the caliber of professional dancers found in the Moscow Ballet.
"It's such a wonderful experience for these kids," Hollingsworth-Drouin said.
Tickets to the Moscow Ballet's production of "The Great Russian Nutcracker" range from $45 to $25 and can be purchased by calling 623-3254 or online at www.joplinmemorialhall.com.
By Scott Meeker
- Local News
Second defendant sentenced in Joplin murder; man assessed 15 years in slaying of Jacob Wages
Circuit Judge David Mouton assessed Cody Stephens 15 years in prison Friday for his role in the home-invasion murder of 23-year-old Joplin resident Jacob Wages. Stephens, 22, pleaded guilty Dec. 6 to second-degree murder and first-degree burglary in a plea deal capping the prison time he might receive at no more than 15 years.
Runners to inaugurate trail in Walnut Bottoms
After months of planning, cleaning and clearing, a new trail in Walnut Bottoms will be the site of an inaugural run today. The run is being organized by Carthage resident Brady Beckham and other volunteers to introduce the trial to local athletes and raise money for future development.
10 restaurants participating in fundraiser for Camp Mintahama
Those who go out to eat on Wednesday night will have an opportunity to Dine Out with a Scout. That is the name Girl Scout troop leader Lisa Nelson has given the event designed as a fundraiser for Camp Mintahama, a Girl Scout camp south of Joplin.
PSU, city praised for partnership during kick-off to annual community campaign
Rich Luker, perhaps best known for his creation of the ESPN Sports Poll in 1994 and a nationally known expert on the idea of “community,” praised Pittsburg State University today as a national model for its partnership with the city of Pittsburg.
Students show off projects at regional History Day contest
Jillian Lopes knew she wanted to research the Holocaust for this year’s History Day competition, but the subject was far too broad. So she whittled it down until she was focused on Irena Sendler, a non-Jewish Polish woman who worked to save children during the Holocaust and whose life later became the subject of a play called “Life in a Jar.”
MSSU panel prepares presidential job advertisement for publication
The advertisement for the president’s job at Missouri Southern State University could be published as early as next week, the university’s search committee was told Friday. The ad will run in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a print and online publication for higher education professionals, for 60 days, said Darren Fullerton, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, and a member of the committee.
Hundreds of Four-State Area students turn out to mark 40th PSU Jazz Festival
What began as an event with 13 high school bands has grown into what organizers believe to be the biggest event of its kind in the Midwest, drawing not just students, but internationally known professional musicians. On Friday, 66 area high school bands participated in the 40th Annual Pittsburg State University Jazz Festival, which celebrates a style of music considered to be the only original American art form.
Kansas high court: School funding unconstitutional
In a highly anticipated ruling Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state’s current public school funding levels are unconstitutional and sent the case back to lower court for more review. In the 110-page decision, the court said Kansas’ poor school districts were harmed when the state made the decision to cut certain payments when tax revenues declined during the Great Recession.
MSSU student to attend posthumous awarding of honor for grandfather
As Missouri Southern State University student Savannah Schwab, unable to sleep, gazed out the window at a moonlit night from her bedroom in Fort Scott, Kan., her thoughts turned to her late grandfather. She had listened to an hour or so of the World War II veteran’s audio recordings that recounted his experiences as a member of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, 15th Infantry Regiment.
Last defendant sentenced in Pittsburg slaying
Nathan Whitney expressed remorse Thursday when he became the last of four young Joplin men assessed prison terms for the murder of Ryan Bailey two years ago in Pittsburg. The 29-year-old defendant listened to Bailey’s wife and adoptive mother render emotional victim-impact statements at his sentencing hearing in Crawford County District Court before standing up and responding to their loss.
- More Local News Headlines
- Second defendant sentenced in Joplin murder; man assessed 15 years in slaying of Jacob Wages