Feels like Christmas at Tea Up for Nutcracker event

With a sprinkling of holiday magic, nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies came to life at the Oak Harbor Clubhouse during Tea Up for the Nutcracker, a holiday-themed event to support Ballet Vero Beach’s debut production of “The Nutcracker on the Indian River.”

For several years, Ballet Vero Beach has enchanted audiences with their version of the original production “The Nutcracker: In Swingtime!” and next December they will take things to a whole new level.

“‘Nutcracker on the Indian River’ will be Ballet Vero Beach’s first Nutcracker project, and will be the only annual resident professional production between Palm Beach and Orlando,” explained artistic director and CEO Adam Schnell. “This production has always been a part of Ballet Vero Beach’s strategic plan. I had performed in some local-themed Nutcrackers while I was dancing and I knew something along those lines would really sing in Vero.”

The holiday classic evokes childhood memories of Christmases past for Schnell and holds a special place in his heart. He told guests at Saturday’s event that his first taste of the Nutcracker came at age 10, when he was dragged to an audition and was cast as the bratty little brother, Fritz.

“Watching those professional dancers was one of the most transformative experiences in my life,” recalled Schnell, before relating his vision for the local production.

“The libretto sets the action in 1919, the year Vero was chartered. The eccentric uncle character is land prospecting in Vero and invites the heroine’s family to spend the holidays here, from New York City. Instead of a second act with candy characters, dances will center around flora and fauna of the Indian River Lagoon.”

To give added weight to the performance, he shared that they are partnering with the Indian River Land Trust, adding, “Taking the production beyond the stage to teach everyday citizens what they can do to make sure that Vero Beach exists in this capacity for generations to come. Dancing manatees and all.”

There was something for everyone to enjoy during Saturday’s event. Golfers could tee up for 9 holes or putt indoors, cravings were satisfied at a vast dessert bar, cookies were decorated, and bidders brought home great items from a silent auction.

More than 150 guests enjoyed a lovely luncheon and fashion show featuring holiday attire from beachside boutiques. Also highlighted were costumes designed by Travis Halsey for the new production, and children and adults watched with delight as Clara, the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy flitted across the stage.

Santa closed the show, walking the runway in his signature red and white, accompanied by Mrs. Claus and ballerina Kendra Nagy. He later listened patiently as boys and girls whispered wishes in his ear; all claiming to have earned their spot on the “nice” list.

At 1:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at Riverside Theatre, Ballet Vero Beach will produce a final Gold Watch Gala Performance of “The Nutcracker: In Swingtime!,” followed by a champagne reception. The production will feature alumni Megan Callahan, Shannon Maloney, Patrick Schlitt, Camilo Rodriguez and, for the first time since his 2009 retirement, Schnell in his Vero Beach debut. Visit balletverobeach.org for tickets.

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