By Libby Baldwin
This Friday, Nov. 22, the San Juan Community Theatre presents “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.
Mary Gray adapted the classic Tchaikovsky ballet into a modern production featuring singing, dancing and a family-friendly script. Penelope Haskew is at the helm for this one; it will be her fourth play with the Family Theatre.
In the play, little Clara is given a toy nutcracker for Christmas. She falls asleep and dreams of the nutcracker coming to life, battling the evil mouse king and taking her off to the land of sweets, where she sees all sorts of magical dances.
Haskew decided on this play because of its large number of roles for youngsters, and the goal is always to get as many kids as possible involved. Her daughter suggested it after they read a pop-up book of the story together.
The audition process is fairly intense—Haskew designs it that way to ensure that the appropriate ages are cast for each role.
“A lot of it is just seeing who can carry a tune, who can be loud enough to be heard from the back row, who can focus and pay attention through two and a half hours of an audition process,” she said.
There are a lot of highlights for Haskew in directing family theatre, but she has trouble picking just one.
“Just watching the kids sort of get their energy, and you can sort of see when they feel really good about what they’re doing – that’s just the coolest,” she said.
The kids are enjoying it just as much as their director. Rachel Starr, 10, plays the iconic nutcracker role.
“I like being able to just be on stage, and it’s just really fun to be a part of the play and be a really big part in,” Rachel said.
The kids have obviously worked hard for their upcoming debut. Both lead child actors, playing Clara and Fritz, feel comfortable on stage.
The jokes are great too—clever enough to entertain the adult members of the audience. The mouse king’s rap and backup dancers ought to be a huge highlight.
This gifted young cast almost makes you forget that you are watching a play – that is, until the slain mouse king is carried offstage by his comrades without his hat, and a tiny mouse sticks out his sword to drag it backstage to a chorus of “You forgot your hat!”