TORRINGTON — Does number 51 look good next to number 61? How about 48 next to 63? Are they close enough in height? Can they concentrate during the long rehearsal process?
This was the kind of discussion that dance instructors at The Nutmeg Ballet had as they evaluated more than 70 students auditioning for “The Nutcracker” this month.
“We like to put people in the best roles that fit them and the roles that fit for the whole group,” said Susan Szabo, Nutmeg’s children’s ballet mistress. She told the assembled auditioners, who ranged in age from about 4 to 14, “If you were in last year’s ‘Nutcracker,’ you may play a different role this year, because this is a whole new ‘Nutcracker.’ ”
It’s new because in celebration of Nutmeg’s 50th anniversary, an entirely new set and hundreds of new costumes have been created. This will mean that choreography, and perhaps a few plot details, will change to accommodate different dimensions of the brilliant new set and props.
Victoria Mazzarelli, Nutmeg’s artistic director, didn’t want to give away surprises but said she has lots of new ideas. “We will have many news surprises for the audience without veering too far from the beautiful and traditional ‘Nutcracker’ story. Our production belongs to everyone!” she said. “We train our students to focus and concentrate from their very first class with Nutmeg. It is all a work in progress and we love it.”
She told the auditioning students, “The new set is exciting and a little scary, but it will be great. We will have to be doing things a little differently. But every single role in ‘The Nutcracker’ is important. We couldn’t do it without you and without the parents. Everybody does their part and it all comes together, and it’s magic.”
Tim Melady, principal ballet master, told the auditioners, “I think it’s going to be an exciting year. You’re going to be a part of a brand new ‘Nutcracker.’ I think it’s incredible. We used the old set for 24 years, and that was your parents’. Now it’s your turn. You all are a part of a new legacy, so congratulations already!”
Nearly 70 students pre-registered for the auditions, and 46 older Nutmeg Ballet students are expected to perform as well. Not every student will be in every one of the seven performances scheduled in December at The Bushnell and The Warner.
Before auditions began, Britton Kinsella of Goshen was helping her three daughters get ready. She said her daughter Rowan is 10 and has been in four previous “Nutcracker” productions. Daughter Maeve, 8, will this year be in her third production, while 6-year-old Ainsley will experience the magic for the first time.
“I went to TSOB (Torrington School of Ballet) at the Nutmeg as a child,” Britton said. “I was in some of the earlier productions, so it’s kind of cool to see my daughters now dance the same production years later.”
She said she was excited to learn of the new set and new costumes. “I have not seen anything, but I’ve heard a lot about it. It’s going to be a big surprise,” she said.
Performances at the Warner Theatre will be Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Performances at The Bushnell will be Dec. 14 and 15 at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets are available through www.nutmegconservatory.org/nutcracker.