South Shore Ballet Theatre gets crackin’ with virtual ‘Nutcracker’

Julia Wessler, 11, of Rockland, center, plays Clara as Jeff McCullum and Vicki Gurder portray her parents in the welcome scene outside Hingham Community Center during the filming of South Shore Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” on October 25, 2020, image by Greg Derr

THE PATRIOT LEDGER – As Clara, performed by 11-year-old Julia Wessler, walked down Hingham’s Main Street in her pointe shoes, she excitedly greeted all of the store owners, a complete change of pace from “The Nutcracker’s” typical performance on stage inside a theater. 

With COVID-19 safety precautions keeping theaters closed, Artistic Director Marthavan McKeon found another way to give her dancers and the South Shore community their annual performance of “The Nutcracker,” hiring a video production team to capture the scenes of the time-honored holiday tradition to turn into a video production.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s romantic score, the “Nutcracker” ballet is a whimsical Christmas fantasy about Clara, a little girl who flies off to a magical land when her nutcracker doll comes to life. With such a fantastical storyline, it’s no wonder “The Nutcracker” has become a holiday tradition, not to mention one of the few ballets to enjoy mainstream popularity.

The video, which will be just over an hour long, will be streamed for kids at four South Shore schools, potentially more, McKeon said, throughout the month beginning on Dec. 2. Families will also be able to purchase a copy of the video, with a portion of the ticket sale going toward the schools to assist with their budgets for the arts, McKeon said.

“We’ve sort of worked backwards in the film,” McKeon said. “We wanted to film on location because it meant we were outside and we had to keep groups small, so we did Waltz of the Flowers first because we knew that had to be in a garden, and the flowers were, you know, it was September, they weren’t going to last very long.”

Young dancers from South Shore Ballet Theatre practice their scene during the filming of “The Nutcracker” in Hingham on October 25, 2020, image by Greg Derr

They altered all of the costumes to work for the natural environment they were surrounded by, with dancers who were in the Waltz of the Flowers scene wearing hand-painted leotards and and skirts to blend in with the flowers. 

While they were filming in Duxbury, they adapted the scenes to their location, changing the clowns that scurry out from under Mother Ginger’s giant hooped skirt into sailors, a nod to the seaside town. 

On Oct. 25, the last scenes of the performance were filmed in downtown Hingham along the shops dotting Main Street where Clara visited real-life local businesses, and in the Hingham Community Center, where the opening party scene was filmed. 

“We got beautiful views of all of the South Shore,” McKeon said. “So everybody should be able to look at this movie and go ‘Oh I know where this is’ or ‘I’ve been there’ or something like that. It should really remind them of what our communityis like and how we pull together to do these things, and yet still give them the holiday tradition that they are longing for in a pandemic.”

Aubree DeBerardinis and Mae Scheid of Norwell, both 6, wait for their turn on camera during the filming of South Shore Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” on October 25, 2020, image by Greg Derr

And, McKeon knows “The Nutcracker” from the inside out. She is former professional dancer with the Atlanta Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet and danced in her first ‘Nutcracker’ when she was 7. 

On a recent Sunday, while filming the party scene with the youngest dancers at South Shore Ballet Theatre, the parents helped out by setting up a Christmas-themed atmosphere inside the building with a Christmas tree, “presents,” and holiday decor. Parents also acted in the party scene as guests with their kids, arriving and greeting Clara as they walked up the front stairs of the Community Center.

Everyone was able to make a mask to wear during the scene, McKeon said, to work with the times and turn the situation into an opportunity to be creative. 

Parents of the youngest dancers were excited to have their kids participate in this adaptive event, including Kelly McKinell and Patricia  McKinell of Duxbury, whose daughter, Elizabeth McKinell, 10, was performing in the party scene and has been with the theater for three years.

“With all the restrictions and limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic, I think Marthavan has really been very inventive and resourceful in putting together a production of ‘The Nutcracker’ that involves the whole community by filming at all these different locations,” Kelly McKinell said.

Other parents said that they were glad the South Shore Ballet Theatre was able to create this production of The Nutcracker and that their kids were excited to be involved.

HOW TO WATCH

What: ‘The Nutcracker’ – A 2020 Movie

When: Starting Dec. 5

Cost: $20

Where: A link to the performance feed will be provided upon purchase, and can be viewed on a computer, hand-held device or cast to a television screen or monitor.

Purchase: Log onto buy.tututix.com/southshoreballettheatre.  

More info: 781-312-7224 or southshoreballettheatre.com 

South Shore children in ‘The Nutcracker’

“The Nutcracker” is a local holiday tradition, and for many young dancers, a dream come true. Here is a list of South Shore children dancing in the South Shore Ballet Theatre’s production.

Abington – Shae Gill

Cohasset – Natalie Heffner, Ceili Kornhaber, Isabella Walker, Elizabeth McKinnell

Duxbury – Adelie Cronin, Olivia Stock, Clara Kelly, Isabelle Ferland, Julia Fine, Alexia Igo, Lila Stevens

Halifax –  Sofia Mendez 

Hanover –  Vicki Gorder, Leah Laybourn

Dancers from South Shore Ballet Theatre film a scene for “The Nutcracker”
on October 25, 2020, image by Greg Derr

Hingham – Elena Chamberlain, Lucy Gossard, Lilian Chamberlain, Catherine Delorie, Gwendolyn Demasi, Estella Engdahl. Elizabeth McKinnell

Holbrook – Nyah Baker 

Kingston – Khloe Amonte

Marshfield – Ella Fielding, Emily Coleman, Tessa Neumann

Norwell – Grace Bragg, Mae Scheid, Sabrina Niblack, Evangeline Scheid, Amalia Niblack, Millicent Kue

Plymouth – Olivia Boutin

Plympton – Enya Teran

Quincy – Caroline Connelly, Claire Buchholz

Rockland – Julia Wessler, Tegan Byers,

Scituate – Edith Robertson

South Easton – Elise Vitello

Weymouth – Aubree DeBerardinis, Madison Fairweather

Winchester – Harunaga Yamakawa-Moser

Party Parents and families – Joy and Jonathan Wessler; Alison, Geoff, Lilian and Elena Chamberlain; Patricia and Kelly McKinell family; Mrs. Danielle Robertson; Andy and Diane Gossard; Meghan, Adam and Annie Laybourn; Mary Bragg

Read more . . .

By Jenna Manto