There are bigger productions of The Nutcracker, but there are few as well loved and with as much heart as the Topanga Nutcracker, celebrating its 39th year this holiday season.
The ballet is expertly produced every year by the husband and wife team of Bob and Sherry Jason.
“Winter is coming,” Bob Jason told the Messenger Mountain News. “Although White Walkers will not be performing, as they have thus far refused to wear tutus, you can expect a torrent of beautiful ballerinas, intermittent showers of incredibly cute bunnies, a multitude of small, pesky mice, and one, very large, multi-headed Mouse King, opposed by a contingent of Toy Soldiers dedicated to protecting a young girl who dreams of dancing with a Prince in a Land of Sweets and Flowers.”
Sherry began studying ballet at the age of four with famed dancers Lilianne and Mario Salveneschi, and went on to perform as a soloist with Ballet Concerto. She later broadened her dance and performing skills to include Flamenco and Spanish Dance, even auditioning for Jose Greco.
Sherry has taught dance since the age of 11, when she began giving weekly classes in her family’s garage for neighborhood children. She and her husband founded Ballet for Topanga in 1979, and mounted their first production of the Topanga Nutcracker Ballet in 1981.
The production has flourished and evolved, but every year it delights audiences with its fairytale sets, beautiful costumes, and talented young performers.
Last year’s production faced the challenge of rehearsals during the Woolsey Fire mandatory evacuation of Topanga Canyon.
Sherry shared the experience with the Messenger. “The Nutcracker dreamscape, along with most canyon dwellers, evacuated in all directions away from the fire that affected everyone,” she said. “Perhaps more than I generally do, I found myself appreciating the normal conflicts that spring up among the children, the disagreements and disappointments that are their own kind of training for life.”
The Jasons are hoping for a disaster-free production this year, but they know the company will deliver holiday magic, no matter what happens.
This year’s performances feature three lovely young dancers for the role of Clara: Stella Menz -Friday, Sophia Penzias – Saturday, and Pearl Parkhurst – Sunday. There will also be three new dancers for the role of the Nutcracker/Prince: Satya Finch for Friday, Emma Farkas for Saturday and Gracie Gandee for Sunday. The demanding role of the Sugar Plum Fairy will be danced by Lily Keep on Friday and Sunday, and Maude Soper on Saturday. Joe Grassi will mark his 26th year as our beloved Mouse King and Mother Ginger, and Harry van Gorkum will honor us for the second year as the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer.
“The winter forecast foretells of a mysterious magician who brings toy gifts that come to life, including the eponymous Nutcracker,” Bob said. “There will be endless flurries of snow, a rainbow of sparkling lights, and an invitation to all to share in the love and joy of an enchanted dream.”
Come share the magic of the season and this very special ballet, as moms and dads share the stage with their children and celebrate the joy of family and Topanga.
The 39th annual Topanga Nutcracker, presented by Bob and Sherry Jason at the Topanga Community Center takes place Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15, 2 p.m. All tickets are still $15, and are available at Mimosa, Canyon Gourmet, from any Nutcracker cast member, or by calling (310) 455-3939.
For schedule and more information, visit balletfortopanga.com.
By Bob Jason