Chapel Hill News

‘The Durham Nutcracker’ sets holiday classic to new beats

Jessie Howard, 15, performs in Waltown Children's Theatre's "The Durham Nutcracker" Friday-Sunday, Dec. 2-4, 2016, at the Durham Arts Council, 120 Morris St. in downtown Durham.
Jessie Howard, 15, performs in Waltown Children's Theatre's "The Durham Nutcracker" Friday-Sunday, Dec. 2-4, 2016, at the Durham Arts Council, 120 Morris St. in downtown Durham. mschultz@newsobserver.com

Walltown Children’s Theatre “The Durham Nutcracker” is not your mother’s, or even older sister’s holiday classic.

“We take Tchaikovsky’s version and flip it on its head to try to give our students something they can see themselves in,” said Meg Feigal, operations director. “It’s really fun.”

At rehearsal for this weekend’s performances at the Durham Arts Council. young people from Durham, Chapel Hill and other nearby communities danced to jazz, funk, hip-hop and other modern sounds, along with ballet.

Director Cynthia Penn-Halal calls it a “reimagined” musical production.

In Walltown’s version, Sarah Tucker is a young dancer facing challenges in and outside the dance studio. She learns that perseverance and courage are as important as talent. Her cocky rival, Rebecca Walker, learns that technical talent alone doesn't produce a successful artist.

“Our shows always aim to feature inspiring life lessons, such as the importance of hard work and believing in your dreams,” said Penn-Halal, who is also the theater’s executive and artistic founding director.”

Walltown uses “blind casting,” meaning the performers chosen for certain roles reflect a diversity of skin colors and races and may not always look like what audiences might be expecting.

“Sometimes we make some interesting choices,” Feigal said. “Our Nutcracker’s not going to look like anyone else’s.”

“Visually, this show is a living example of our commitment to social justice, diversity, and creative expression,” Penn-Halal explained in a release. “That’s the Walltown way. We celebrate similarities and differences. And you know what – they all have a place together on the stage.”

She thinks that message is especially timely.

“I believe the performing arts are one of the earliest opportunities we have to teach children about tolerance, diversity, and intelligent expression of ideas,” Penn Halal said. “So if you're feeling down and out about the status of world right now, come see the show and some of the bright young talent we have in our community."

Tickets for “The Durham Nutcracker,” from $5 to $25, are available now at www.walltownchildrenstheatre.org or 919-286-4545.

Schultz: 919-829-8950; Twitter: @the durhamnews

Details

Walltown Children’s Theatre presents “The Durham Nutcracker,” Friday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2:30 and 5 p.m. at the Durham Arts Counci’s PSI Theatre, 120 Morris St. in downtown Durham. Prices range from $5-$25. Group tickets are available at a discounted rate. Tickets are available now online at www.walltownchildrenstheatre.org or via phone at (919) 286-4545.

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