Flint Hill Nutcracker undergoes finishing touches


Photo Credit: Blanton Studios

Dancers perform at the 2012 FHS Nutcracker production.

This November, ballerinas, actors, and musicians will once again grace the Olson Theater. These performers consist of about 30 Upper School dancers plus 30 musicians, seven Middle Schoolers, 20 Lower Schoolers, and eight faculty members. What is this epic all-school production? The Nutcracker, of course!

As always, there will be some similar elements in this production to those of years past. Junior Alexa Mengenhauser and senior Charlotte Sadar, who have been leads in years past, will both portray the roles of  the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Shepherdess, a new role.

“It’s really fun to be a lead because you get one-on-one time with [production director Jenelle] Mrykalo, so you get more detailed and specific corrections,” said Mengenhauser. “I’d say this year is different because a lot of the parts are switched around so it will be interesting to see how the audience reacts to different classes performing different parts.”

Myrkalo, who is also a dance teacher, as well as the Middle and Upper School dance team coach also recognized the various adjustments to this year’s cast and overall performance.

“We [have] made some changes, changing up some of the group dances to make them solo numbers or lead numbers and making some of the historically lead roles class dances,” said Mrykalo. “We also shifted the performances of the TK students, where they used to be mice and soldiers, and this year I won’t give it away, but they have a new role in a different section of the show, which we’re very excited about.”

Mrykalo is a seasoned member of The Nutcracker family and utilizes her previous experiences with the show in order to better organize each aspect of the performance.

“I start with casting, and then we go into rehearsal scheduling, and then we go into acquiring, sewing, and fitting costumes and just sort of producing all of the different elements with the lighting designer and the set designer,” said Mrykalo. “This year we have some student choreographers, so we’re working with [them] in addition to the other choreography components that are new this year.”

Mrykalo’s favorite part of this year’s production is “the TK’ers, especially seeing them in their new costumes.”

Something especially exciting about this year’s production is the inclusion of a robotic rat, another new addition to the show. This rat will make its appearance during the fight scene. Vale Tolpegin, the mastermind behind the robot, explained how it works:

“The rat uses a propeller activity bot, which is a Parallax robot that’s tiny,” said Tolpegin. “It has two motors connected to a microcontroller, and it moves the motors by a remote control that’s connected to an XP which sends [a] signal…from and to the robot.”

Since the production involves components from the entire school, it can sometimes be difficult to coordinate.

“I would say in the beginning it was very challenging to figure out the best way to include everybody, but each year it seems to get a little bit easier because…I know where each division is at, when the best times to rehearse them [are], and the best way to include them,” said Mrykalo.

The all-school qualities of The Nutcracker are especially exciting for students in the audience because they get to watch their teachers perform. This year, US drama teacher and director of drama productions Carlo Grossman, US photography and digital arts teacher Catherine Huber, assistant director of college counseling Jeremiah Shepherd, US math teacher Harrell Rentz, US Spanish teacher Jackie Carroll, US history teacher Taylor Johnson, and Lower School Director Sheena Hall are all participating in various capacities. Grossman is reprising his role as Herr Drosselmeyer, Huber and Shepherd are serving as Clara and Fritz’s parents, and Rentz, Carroll, Johnson, and Hall are playing the roles of the other sets of parents.

In the three weeks until The Nutcracker debuts on stage, the cast, musicians, and crew are busy making their finishing touches. Since rehearsals have been occurring since the second week of September, Mrykalo described these final weeks of preparation as the time where the performers are “cleaning and working on skills.”

Save the date for The Nutcracker on November 21 and 22!