It used to be that fans of “The Nutcracker” had two choices in Wichita every Christmas season.
They could catch a classic performance at Friends University put on by longtime ballet teachers Stan and Sharon Rogers, or they could snag tickets to Ballet Wichita’s version at Century II’s Concert Hall.
This year, it’s not so simple.
The popular Christmas ballet, which follows the adventures of young Clara as she travels though a magical candy world, is being put on by at least five different groups in Wichita this Christmas, and the performances people are used to seeing from Friends and Century II will be completely different.
Here’s a guide to all of “The Nutcrackers” Wichita has to choose from this year.
The first offering of “The Nutcracker” happens this weekend at The Orpheum, and it will be performed by a touring group of Russian dancers. This version, performed to a recorded soundtrack, features hand-painted sets and a several Russian touches, including a lead character named Masha, a dancing Dove of Peace, on-stage puppets and a few acrobatics thrown in. Though it’s a traveling company, several local children auditioned for and will appear in the dance.
Details: 3 p.m. Sunday, Wichita Orpheum, 220 N. Broadway. $32-$179, www.selectaseat.com, 316-755-7328; box office opens at noon on Sunday.
Longtime Ballet Wichita director Jill Landrith formed her own dance company in the last year, drawing its inspiration from the original Metropolitan Ballet of Wichita (now known as Ballet Wichita), which was started by her mother, June Landrith. Landrith is staging a full-length, traditional production of “The Nutcracker,” featuring dancers from 6 years old to adults. The production will also feature two guest artists from New York – Sabrina Yap and Patrick Mihm.
Many costumes in the show have been handmade by June Landrith. Dancers come from Wichita, Salina, El Dorado and Hutchinson. Expect a show length of 2 hours and 30 minutes.
If you’ve attended the Friends University performance of “The Nutcracker” for years, what you’ll see there this year will be nothing like what you’re used to. Earlier this year, longtime ballet director Stan Rogers — who also founded the ballet program and had always directed “The Nutcracker” — left the university. The school hired a new director of ballet, Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre, and she has a new vision for the performance.
Instead of the classic Tchaikovsky score, Vazquez-Aguirre is using The Duke Ellington Orchestra’s jazzy 1960 recording of Billy Strayhorn’s “Nutcracker Suite.” The music will be supplemented with selections from David Berger’s 1996 “Harlem Nutcracker.”
She’s cast Friends students as well as dancers from the community and also has invited four guest performers to appear. The first weekend of performances will feature Jermey Edmonson and Nanako Horikawa, freelance dancers in New Mexico and New York. And the second weekend will feature Dandara Amorim Veiga and Lyvan Verdecia from Ballet Hispanico in New York City.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7-8 and Dec. 14-15; 2 p.m. Dec. 9 and Dec. 15, Sebits Auditorium, Riney Fine Arts Center, Friends University, 2100 W. University. $16 adults, $13 students and seniors, 316-295-5677
Local dance instructor Jana Owen, who owns Midwest Dance Mechanix, is putting on a shortened version of “The Nutcracker” that she says will be ideal for younger viewers with shorter attention spans. She’s been putting on a student performance for years that featured highlights from the famous ballet, but each year it has grown in length and size as she’s added sets, costumes and numbers.
This year, the Wichita Center for Performing Arts invited her to stage her show there, and she managed to recruit Stan Rogers — her onetime ballet instructor at Friends. He will recreate his famous snow scene he used to do at Friends, complete with the white stuff coming down onto the stage.
Owen said her “Nutcracker” is about 50 minutes long and features many of the famous scenes. She’s cut out most of the musical interludes, and parts of the story that aren’t danced will be narrated. It will feature her student dancers, who range in age from 6 to 18, and this year, she got a grant to bring guest performers from the University of Oklahoma dance department, who will dance the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier.
Details: 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 8, 1 p.m. Dec. 9, Wichita Center for Performing Arts, 9112 E. Central; $15 adults, $10 children, www.ticketfly.com/
After last year’s critically panned, experimental “The New Nutcracker,” Ballet Wichita is getting back to basics this year. Last year, Ballet Wichita – which was without a permanent artistic director – brought in two New Yorkers to create a new, non-traditional “Nutcracker,” and it didn’t go over well with audiences. This year, new artistic director Alex Ossadnik is bringing back a traditional “Nutcracker,” featuring new costumes and entirely new Act II scenery by local set designer Michael Downs.
More than 130 local dancers will join the cast. It is the only production of “The Nutcracker” in town to feature live accompaniment by a symphony orchestra. The company is once again bringing its production of “The Nutcracker” to the McPherson Opera House, sans symphony, at 2 and 7 p.m. Sat., Dec. 8. Tickets range from $25-$35 for those performances, and student tickets are available for $12. For more information on the McPherson shows, visit www.mcphersonoperahouse.org.