The Ann Arbor Ballet Theater will celebrate its 20th anniversary performance of E.T. Hoffmann’s full story-length ballet, “The Nutcracker Prince,” by donating proceeds from the opening show to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Fine Arts Reviews
Nutcracker. Sweet. (Courtesy of Ann Arbor Ballet Theater)

The hospital is hosting a campaign, “Champions for Children,” to build a new children and women’s hospital. The project is part of the University’s $2.5 billion fundraising campaign. The campaign kicked off in May.

In the “Nutcracker Prince,” the Christmas party at the Stahlbaum home takes an unexpected twist after Drosselmeyer gives young Clara a nutcracker doll that comes to life. After the toy soldiers slay the King Mouse in a battle around the family’s Christmas tree, the Nutcracker Prince whisks Clara off to the Land of Sweets. There, the kingdom of mirlitons, Chinese dancers, Arabian dancers, a Sugar Plum Fairy, flowers and more, dance for the couple. The next morning Clara wakes up and is left to wonder if it was all only a dream.

The performance will feature more than 100 local dancers under the direction of Carol Radovic. They will be accompanied by more than 30 local musicians and the Michigan Sinfonietta, directed by Leo Najar.

The dancers range in age from 7 to mid-40s, but most are in high school or college. Assistant artistic director and co-founder of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) Ballet Theater School, Kathy Scharp, said, “Although a community effort, most (dancers) are trained at the ballet school.” Scharp founded the Church Street school 24 years ago with her mother, and artistic director, Carol Radovic.

In addition to holding the benefit performance for C.S. Mott, the company also annually invites elementary children from the area to watch the Thursday dress rehearsal. This arrangement not only gives children the opportunity to experience “The Nutcracker,” but also provides the dancers with an enthusiastic audience for the dress rehearsal. Scharp said that these children make one of the best audiences. “They just love it,” she commented.

Scharp said to expect a “visual feast” with Friday’s opening night. Local Suzuki Violin groups will also perform for guests in the theater lobby. Scharp added, “We put it as close to Christmas as we can to make it a much more festive evening.” As the production has grown each year, it has become an Ann Arbor Christmas tradition.

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