When the curtain rises Wednesday on the Nutcracker of Middle Georgia’s annual performance, a core group of volunteers have been behind the scenes for months working to bring the beloved Christmas-time classic to life.
The work is not easy. It involves a cast of 122 of all ages with lots of intricate costumes and countless props.
“Everything is done by hand just like it was in the beginning,” said artistic director Jean Weaver. “We have no electronics. We have hands that pull the ropes and we use every light in there.”
“The Nutcracker” will play to about 6,000 people at the Grand Opera House during six paid performances and another 1,000 children for a school performance.
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“There’s always something to do,” said Tony Long Sr., who serves as production manager and has helped since the beginning.
“I always see something every year I can make better next year and that is the goal.”
The work always begins with Weaver’s purple three-ring binder, which holds her handwritten choreography.
“That (binder) is the bible as far as this show is concerned,” said Marianna Gebara, managing director of the show. “You would think after 29 years we’ve got a set show but we’ve not. We’re constantly trying to improve it. We’re constantly trying to tweak it.”
During the show, Gebara is always at stage left and Long is at stage right with Don Colbert, who is the show’s lighting designer.
“I’ve never seen the show,” said Colbert. “I’ve always been backstage.”
Gebara, Colbert and Long have all been a part of the show since Weaver founded and organized the production in 1985.
“I think Jean’s is truer to the classical original than just about anything you’ll see anywhere in the United States or the world,” Long said. “And I think that’s why people ... keep coming every year.”
During the years, there have been tweaks to the choreography and changes to the sets and props but the production still closely resembles Weaver’s original plan.
“All four of us have kind of our little area that we try to perfect,” Gebara said. “And that is what makes it continually improve.”
Long said they’ve all stayed with it year after year because they are like one big family.
The Nutcracker of Middle Georgia operates as a nonprofit and Gebara said they keep family friendly ticket prices.
“All during the year you’re looking at publicity and ticket sales and costumes and rehearsals, but then when you get to the Grand Opera House and all of that work and effort and all those pieces fit together in that puzzle so perfectly, and you’ve got a sellout house and you’ve got dancers on the stage doing beautiful work, and your crew is functioning and everyone is having a good time -- whether they are in the cast or in the audience -- you’ve got satisfaction,” Gebara said.
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11-14, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 14-15
Where: The Grand Opera House, 651 Mulberry St.
Cost: $18-$25 adults, $10 students
Information: 478-301-5470; www.midganutcracker.com