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‘The Nutcracker’ will charm both young and old this weekend

Logan Heller (left) and Mia Utrillo appear in a scene from “The Nutcracker.” MAPA’s large cast includes youth dance students, MAPA alumni and the dance instructors, as well as members of the Maui performing arts community. PETER SWANZY photo

We all have a few holiday traditions. Visiting family, hosting parties, shopping trips to Honolulu, the cookies we bake, antique ornaments passed down through the generations, and the films and cartoon specials we love to see every year are all part of holiday checklists.

In the world of live theater, there are also several traditions. The Rockettes Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, regional presentations of Nativity plays, Handel’s “Messiah” and Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

Maui audiences can observe one of those annual traditions this weekend when the Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “The Nutcracker” in the Castle Theater at Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Wailuku.

In previous years, MAPA offered an abbreviated version of the ballet titled, “Nutcracker Sweets.” I chatted with Dylan Bode, MAPA’s director of marketing, and asked why MAPA decided to present a different version in 2019. David Johnston, (MAPA’s executive and artistic director), wanted to go back to the original full-length version. This “Nutcracker” has more of a storyline — there will be more of the Christmas Eve party with Herr Drosselmeyer. “Nutcracker Sweets” was more of a recital set in the Land of Sweets. David had a vision to do this version this year. We have a big production team, and he’ll be co-directing with Hoku (Pavao, assistant artistic director). The intention is to tell the story with acting performances, alongside the dancing, that reads to the audience,” he explained. Bode and Pavao are also in the cast as the parents of Clara Stahlbuam.

If it’s been awhile since you’re seen this 19th-century fantasy ballet, a magical toymaker, Herr Drosselmeyer (Logan Heller), gives his goddaughter Clara (Mia Utrillo and Sasha Brown-Roth) a nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. Later that night Clara nestles under the Christmas tree, hugging her beloved doll and dreaming of adventures with her Nutcracker Prince (Kaimana Neil), the Rat King (Makeda Wilmeth), the Snow Queen (Kassidy Rambaud) and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Randi Lonzaga), in the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets.

Jam-packed with favorite holiday songs, “The Reluctant Elf” follows an elf (Ross Young), who tries to convince his less than enthusiastic eight-year-old daughter (Mikaela Petrilli, pictured above) how great it is to work for Santa as they venture through Christmastown. PETER SWANZY photo

What makes MAPA’s production so unique is its large cast, which includes youth dance students, MAPA alumni, and the dance instructors, as well as members of the Maui performing arts community. MAPA keeps the production fresh each year by adding new costumes, set pieces, choreography, a new generation of children, and all the grandeur and theatrical effects that only the Castle Theater can offer. The treasured classic is a perfect holiday outing for all ages, whether you are introducing a child to the magic of this story for the first time or honoring one of those family traditions by seeing the ballet for the umpteenth time. The magic of “The Nutcracker,” whatever the version, is witnessing the “ooh” and “ah” reactions of grown adults conveying the same excitement to its majesty as the five-year-olds in the audience.

Choreographing the Maui cast of 130 are Kathleen Schultz and Kathleen McKeon, with additional choreography by Katie Talbot, Katie Higuchi, Camille Romero, Jackie Dowsett, and Barry Brinker Jones. “Each choreographer brings their own interpretations and style to the ballet. And we have several lead dancers with professional dance experience appearing this year. Katie Talbot with the Mirlitons, Katie Istvan plays the Peacock, and (Nicole) Yezzi is the lead Arabian dancer,” shared Bode.

I asked Bode why this year’s “Nutcracker” was must see. “For the visual spectacle of it all alone,” he replied. “We have a beautiful new set designed by Jamie Tait, dozens and dozens of hand-sewn costumes by Kathleen Schultz and Linda Timm that are just stunning, and then there is the lush and beautiful, and timeless music of Tchaikovsky. There’s really nothing like ‘The Nutcracker’ to get in the Christmas spirit,” Bode expressed.

* The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “The Nutcracker.” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $24, $30 and $18 for children under 12 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order at www.mauiarts.org.

ALSO THIS WEEK

ProArts presents the world premier of “The Reluctant Elf,” directed by Ally Shore, co-written and musical direction by Kathryn Holtkamp and Shore, choreography by Erin Kowalick and Theresa Supera. Jam packed with all of your favorite holiday songs, this family friendly extravaganza follows an elf (Ross Young), who tries to convince his less than enthusiastic eight-year-old daughter (Mikaela Petrilli) how great it is to work for Santa as they venture through Christmastown. The show features tap dancing elves, audience participation, dancing reindeers, and also stars Dale Button, Ruben Carrion, Jerry Eiting, Holtkamp, Erin Kowalick, Julia Schwentor, Marsi Smith, Theresa Supera, Patty Lee Sylva, Jamie Nicole Wilcox, and Robert E. Wills as Santa Claus. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 19 through 22; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $20 and $15 for children under 12. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

UPCOMING

Comedian, healing coach, teacher and public event speaker, JP Sears returns to Maui with a brand-new show. The satirical Sears slices through the nuances of the new age community, self-help movement, health practices, and his own life through laughter while inspiring audiences to live their best lives. The performance is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 in Castle Theater at MACC. Tickets are $52 or $103 for VIP privileges (plus applicable fees). VIP tickets include premium seating, a post-show meet-and-greet, commemorative laminate and photo opportunity. To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

*****

Catch Tom Segura’s “Take It Down” tour. Best known for his Netflix specials, “Disgraceful,” “Mostly Stories,” and “Completely Normal,” Segura has become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand and highly regarded talents. Segura played opposite Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in “Instant Family,” and his television credits include “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Conan,” “The Late Late Show,” and his Comedy special “Mash Up, and How To Be A Grown Up.” The performance is at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29 in Castle Theater at MACC. Tickets are $50 and $100 (plus applicable fees). This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children. To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

*****

Rick Bartalini presents Bill Maher’s 9th annual New Year’s comedy extravaganza. Limited seating and standing-room-only tickets remain for this annual Maui tradition, Bill Maher rings in the New Year joined by special guest comedians, Sarah Silverman and Bobby Slayton. The performance is at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $79.50 to $99.50 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.