Continuing its incredible golden anniversary season, the Northwest Florida Ballet (NFB) presents the 40th annual production of the classic holiday fairytale The Nutcracker Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23, at 7:30 PM, and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2:30 PM. Performances will be held at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville and will feature live music by the Northwest Florida Ballet (NFB) Symphony Orchestra.
NFB’s production of The Nutcracker includes a cast of over 140 performers, including over 100 local children and international guest artists. This season, the role of Clara will be performed by Scarlett Bennett, who will dance with Noah Cook performing as the high-spirited Fritz. Ms. Bennett and Mr. Cook attend the NFB Académie and are in the 7th and 6th grades respectively. NFB’s Artistic Director/CEO Todd Eric Allen will dance the role of Drosselmeyer, and NFB Assistant Director Shari Allen will be the vivacious Mouse Queen.
Celebrated NFB alum and current American Ballet Theater (ABT) dancer Courtney Shealy will dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, and Cameron McCune, also of ABT, will be her Prince Cavalier. In the fall of 2015, at the age of 17, Ms. Shealy joined ABT Studio Company. She was offered an apprenticeship with American Ballet Theatre’s main company just one year later and rose to the rank of corps de ballet the following season. Mr. McCune joined ABT as an apprentice in 2013 and the corps de ballet in January 2014.
International guest artist Meisy Garcia Laffitte will dance the role of the Dew Drop Fairy and the Snow Queen alongside NFB alum and principal guest artist Jonathan Carter, who will perform as the Snow King. Ms. Laffitte has performed as a guest artist with Joburg Ballet in South Africa in Don Quixote. She came to the United States in 2013, joining the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida in Miami after working with Laura Alonso. Ms. Laffitte joined the Kentucky Ballet Theater in 2014.
Mr. Carter started his ballet training at the age of three, and at the age of nine began attending the NFB Academie where he trained under the direction of Todd Eric Allen. He has since gone on to dance with Atlanta Ballet II, Cincinnati Ballet II and Alabama Ballet, where he performed Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty and The Cavalier in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. He is currently dancing as a professional guest artist performing for multiple companies across America.
NFB dancers Luciana Ato and Jolin Crabtree will perform the roles of the Snow Princesses. NFB dancer Wyatt Mier will perform in a trio of roles, including the high-flying lead Russian dancer, a Harlequin Doll and the esteemed Nutcracker Prince. Angel Mier will dance the role of Columbine Doll.
“We are incredibly grateful to celebrate NFB’s 50th anniversary as well as our 40th production of The Nutcracker with the community,” says Mr. Allen. “This production brings such joy to families all along Northwest Florida each year as they come out and mark the beginning of their holiday season. With the live musical accompaniment by the NFB Symphony Orchestra, it is unlike any other performance in our area.”
The orchestra, led by David Ott, continues to be comprised of the finest musicians from the southeast and abroad. In his fourth year as the NFB Music Director, Mr. Ott has been cited among America’s most-performed composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music as well as Grammys, he has a large portfolio of compositions in every genre of music, from large-scale orchestra works to short overtures. His works have been performed or recorded by some of the most distinguished American and European orchestras.
In addition to its three public performances, NFB will also present two performances for area schoolchildren and special needs groups. These performances are part of NFB’s Education and Outreach services and will be held on Friday, Nov. 22, and Saturday, Nov. 23, both at 10 AM. An Académie Alumni party will be held immediately following the Nov. 23 performance.
Alumni of the NFB Académie should contact the NFB office at 850-664-7787 for tickets to the performance and to register for the party.
Box office priced tickets for The Nutcracker are $40 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at NFBallet.org or through the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box Office. Signature season co-sponsors for The Nutcracker include AJ’s, ResortQuest and VIE Magazine. NFB is sponsored in part by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
– Sabrina McLaughlin