A local artistic tradition returns to the stage on Thanksgiving weekend as the Ballet Theatre of Toledo brings director Nigel Burgoine's legendary production of the Nutcracker to the Valentine Theatre.
Since 1996 when Burgoine’s choreography was first performed by the Toledo Ballet, local audiences have been enchanted by his version of the Tchaikovsky classic. Burgoine later left the Toledo Ballet in 2005, and started the Ballet Theatre of Toledo, where his legendary production was carried on.
One of the keys to the production's longevity, Burgoine said, is that he always aims to make the show accessible to all audience members, no matter how young.
"I have to make my production fun," Burgoine said. "I've been to some [productions] that have been so deep and mysterious that I come out [saying], 'Oh, I wonder what happened there?' No— there's got to be life, there's got to be humanity in the show."
Tiny, tiny changes
Burgoine, who is also the artistic director of the Ballet Theatre of Toledo, said though the production makes "tiny, tiny" alterations as it evolves over time, he largely tries to keep the core of the experience intact year after year.
"By now, everybody is so used to our production— that's why they want their children to see it. I don't want to make too many changes," Burgoine said.
There are some exciting developments for this year's attendees, though. Sarah Hairston and Zach Grubbs from the Cincinnati Ballet are returning to Toledo to participate in this year's performances. The Spangler Candy Factory will be donating 7,000 pieces of candy to be given away at every performance.
As tradition, there will be an early performance of the show at 2pm on Friday, November 27 for audience members with special needs or assisted living. Burgoine noted that the response from attendees to these performances may be the most meaningful to him and his dancers.
One day, a mother of two special needs children who had never been able to see a live performance brought a large fudge cake to him out of gratitude. And like Burgoyne's the Nutcracker, that family has become a tradition to the director and his cast.
"They come every year, and she brings a cake— that I have to hide, so the dancers don't get at the fudge before the end of the run!" Burgoine said, laughing.
Friday, November 27-Sunday, November 29 | 2pm performance for special needs and assisted living individuals Friday; 7pm Friday & Saturday, 2pm Sunday | $20-$39 | Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St | Ballet Theatre of Toledo: 419-861-0895, ballettheatreoftoledo.org | Valentine Theatre: 419-242-2787. valentinetheatre.com