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The Savvy Sylvanian goes nutty: A Visit to the 75th Anniversary Nutcracker

This Savvy Sylvanian has always had a secret desire to be a ballerina. However, due to fate and genetics, it was never to be. Back in the day, someone who was in the seventh grade that was charted as being in the 110% of height and charged for a teacher’s lunch in the cafeteria line, did not have a fighting chance of getting into a tutu, or for that matter, being lifted into a graceful pose. Therefore, I leaped at the opportunity to experience the 75th anniversary performance of the Toledo Ballet’s “Nutcracker” on Dec. 12 at the Stranahan Theater.

I recall taking my three daughters to the performance when they were in elementary school. Although we love the ballet, I came fortified with candy and provisions to insure that they and face it, yours truly, would not get fidgety during the performance. I am happy to report that I did not need any chocolate distractions during this year’s spell-binding presentation of the holiday classic.

The Savvy Sylvanian, center, visited with professional dancers Mary Carmen Catoya and Renato Penteado after the afternoon performance of the 75th anniversary performance of the 'Nutcracker' on Dec. 12.

The Savvy Sylvanian, center, visited with professional dancers Mary Carmen Catoya and Renato Penteado after the afternoon performance of the 75th anniversary performance of the ‘Nutcracker’ on Dec. 12.

The set designs, by designer Thomas C. Umfrid, transported us to far-off places and wintery wonderlands. Add the creative talents and vision of artistic director and school director at the Toledo Ballet, Lisa Mayer Lang, the Toledo Symphony, accompaniment by conductor Adron Ming, and the talented professional and local dancers, and you have an experience to remember, or in the words of my beloved Gram, “If you aren’t entertained, it’s your own darn fault.”

What truly elevated the performance were professional dancers Mary Carmen Catoya, who danced the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen, and Renato Penteado, who danced the roles of Cavalier and the Snow King. I had the pleasure of meeting Penteado, who was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at a previous engagement (hence my good fortune of being asked backstage). Penteado is passionate about dance and we may all thank our lucky stars that his father, who still resides in Brazil, supported his son’s dream to perform. Catoya and Penteado were brilliant and enchanting. As I told them backstage, “You made my Mom cry.”

Resident guest artists Steven J. Brown and H. Roman Tylinski, a freshman at the Toledo School for the Arts, also gave outstanding performances. Condessa Croninger took the role of the Housekeeper that could have easily been “lost in the shuffle” and made it comical and memorable. Mother Ginger’s arrival on stage is always greatly anticipated. Keith Burwell, president of the Toledo Community Foundation, who played “Mother Ginger” during the performance I attended, did not disappoint in delivering fun and frivolity to the event. The Arabian dance, performed by Talya Warrick and Dominque Glover, the “Candy Canes,” the “Dew Drop Fairy,” performed by Charlotte Thurston and Nora Light as the “Flutes-Marzipan,” are just a few of the memorable moments of many.

In the midst of World War II, Toledo Ballet’s founder, Marie Vogt, desired to expand our cultural horizons by bringing us a story from a distant, potentially dangerous country. Vogt obtained the orchestral score of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” Suite and went about choreographing and producing what has become the longest running annual production of the “Nutcracker” in the country. We are blessed to have someone of Vogt’s vision and talent to claim as our own and I am thankful to have experienced an event of such historical and artistic significance.

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