Ballet Wooster’s ‘Nutcracker’ returning for biennial holiday tradition

Ballet Wooster’s ‘Nutcracker’ returning for biennial holiday tradition
Marlane Kennedy

Ballet Wooster, a nonprofit, noncompetitive ballet school and youth company, will present “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 9 and 10 at Fisher Auditorium.


On Dec. 9 and 10, a biennial holiday tradition will return to Wayne County as Ballet Wooster will present “The Nutcracker.”

This year the production will be held at the OARDC’s Fisher Auditorium and will include three shows: Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.

The story for “The Nutcracker” ballet was adapted from a book written by E.T.A. Hoffman called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” Pyotr Tchaikovsky composed the score for the ballet, with the first production taking place in December 1892 in Russia. The story is about a young girl named Clara who receives a nutcracker for Christmas. The nutcracker comes to life as a prince, and after Prince battles with the Mouse Queen, Prince and Clara travel to the Land of Sweets, where the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy takes place.

Because the ballet takes place on Christmas Eve and made its debut in December, “The Nutcracker” has become synonymous with the Christmas holiday season and often is a family tradition to attend the ballet to celebrate the season.

Ballet Wooster’s production of “The Nutcracker” includes 95 dancers who study ballet at the studio and who range in age from 5-18.

The four most senior dancers at Ballet Wooster hold key roles within the production. This year Clara is played by Brianna Lengyel, who is a junior at Norwayne High School. Lengyel said she enjoys dancing in “The Nutcracker.”

“My favorite part is how much opportunity there is to grow as a dancer and as a person,” she said.

The Mouse Queen is portrayed by Annie McLain, who has been dancing for 13 years and is a homeschooled senior. “I enjoy performing on stage and watching everyone’s hard work to create something beautiful,” she said.

Ryleigh Perrine, a junior at Wooster High School, plays the Chinese lead in the Land of Sweets. She said she enjoys dancing with her friends as part of “The Nutcracker” cast.

Nadia Franks is a junior at Wooster High School who dances several roles in the show including the Snow Queen and the Arabian lead. “The best part of ‘The Nutcracker’ is getting a chance to dance with my friends,” she said. “The whole show is just amazing.”

The cast also includes guest artist Tim Pritchard as Nutcracker Prince and a few community members including Max Miyashita, a senior at Orrville High School, who plays Herr Drosselmyer, the magician, toymaker and godfather to Clara who gives her the gift of the nutcracker.

For Artistic Director Zelie McLain, directing, choreographing and planning “The Nutcracker” takes her back to when she danced in “The Nutcracker” ballet. McLain is
originally from Wayne County and spent her youth dancing ballet. Over the course of her years as a dancer, she played the Mouse Queen, just like her younger sister Annie McLain, who plays that role this year.

“My last ‘Nutcracker’ that I danced was in 2014,” Zelie McLain said. “I performed in six different ‘Nutcracker’ ballets and have had 12 different roles across those six productions.”

McLain has been teaching at Ballet Wooster for several years and became artistic director in 2022.

In addition to McLain, the teaching faculty at Ballet Wooster, located at 5246 Cleveland Road, Suite E, Wooster, includes veteran teacher and former co-artistic director Brenda Schwinn, who is now emeritus artistic director, as well as instructor Samantha Servais Canfield, who plays Mrs. Stahlbaum in the production. Evelyn Pritchard, another instructor at the studio, has a connection to the production and not just as a teacher. Her son Tim plays Nutcracker Prince.

Ballet Wooster is a nonprofit, noncompetitive ballet school and youth company. The studio offers classes in ballet, tap, jazz and creative movement to students ranging in age from 18 months to adult. Ballet Wooster also is a preprofessional company for intermediate and advanced dancers. Dance levels are determined by faculty evaluations each year.

Company dancers attend ballet classes two to three times weekly, increasing in frequency and duration as their level increases. In addition to Ballet Wooster’s biennial production of “The Nutcracker,” the studio also puts on a spring ballet production each year. Last spring Ballet Wooster presented “Cinderella.” This year’s spring production will be announced after the holidays. The studio’s spring classes will begin in January.

For more information on how to register for classes or to purchase tickets in advance, go to or call the studio at 330-201-0455. Tickets also will be available at the door, but it is advised not to wait as tickets are selling quickly. Ballet Wooster’s 2021 “Nutcracker” had three completely sold out shows, so it is best to purchase ahead instead of waiting to try and purchase at the door.

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