‘The Nutcracker,’ a hometown production

The local production of the seasonal favorite features dozens of Malibu residents, as well as professional dancers.

By Kim Devore / The Malibu Times

Holiday magic returns to town as the Malibu Ballet and Performing Arts Society and the Malibu Civic Ballet stages a festive production of a Christmas classic. “The Nutcracker,” with its lavish costumes, special effects and sweet treats will return to the Smothers Theater at Pepperdine University for four performances beginning on Dec. 3.

The beloved Christmas extravaganza, directed by Diane Linder, is Malibu’s only local production and features 60 elementary, middle and high school children, along with a handful of seniors and a few professional dancers.

The event is extra special for longtime arts patron Liane Weintraub, who will be keeping a close eye on one aspiring dancer.

“The production is near and dear to me not only because my daughter is part of it, but because I have a strong belief that community-based arts are truly important and valuable.”

Parent and performer Kevin Montgomery also got involved with the production thanks to his 17-year-old daughter Chelsea, who will play a Sugar Plum Fairy. For them, the holiday spectacular has become a community tradition.

“There are so many different parts of it and flavors and colors and characters,” he said. “It’s fun and exciting and appeals to everyone.”

Montgomery, who is cast in the roles of Grandpa and Mother Ginger, is in his ninth year with “The Nutcracker.” Like many parents, he has watched his daughter grow up with the show.

“It keeps kids motivated to dance,” he said. “The little ones look up and follow the older ones who inspire them. They pick out one character that appeals to them. That’s their goal and that’s their dream.”

The principal cast features Charis Buff, Paige Ceylan, Thea Percival, Allison Ciongoli, Taylor Colby, Sarah Corrigan, Dana Devitt, Ali Gilliams, Samantha Gilliams, Gabriella Grahek, Steven Grahek, Haylee Joseph, Kaitlin Moore, Chelsea Montgomery-Duban, David Robinson-Hicks, Sadie Sandoval, Paige Schwimmer and Farah Stack, as well as dozens of other Malibu residents. Special guest artists include Tian Tan, Elizabeth Mize, Hai Cohen and Kalani McManusk.

Organizers say “The Nutcracker” is a true celebration of the season of giving. Five hundred students from disadvantaged schools from Oxnard to Baldwin Hills will be invited to attend the performances.

“Many of these kids have never been to a theater before let alone seen a ballet or coastline,” said Malibu Ballet Society Chair Deborah La Gorce Kramer.

But as Kramer sees it, “The Nutcracker” is an education in itself. “It’s as important for our kids to reach out and understand how privileged they are as it is for the kids who experience it for the first time.”

The Society believes that community-based arts have never been more important, especially in light of school budget cuts.

To continue the tradition, “The Nutcracker” relies on community support.

“Malibu’s ‘Nutcracker’ is funded through our local, non-profit organization, which must fundraise to make the show possible,” Weintraub said. “Most importantly, they must fill all the seats, because a ballet without an audience is pointless.”

The Society, which has had to overcome several hurdles including a loss of rehearsal space, is determined to keep the production going no matter what.

“This gives kids a sense of joy,” La Gorce Kramer said. “We will not let it die.”

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at the Smothers Theatre, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 4, 2 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.; and Dec. 5, 2 p.m. Tickets can be obtained by calling 310.506 4522.

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