Article from the Beaver County times 12/3/15 - Written by Scott Tady: http://www.timesonline.com/entertainment/local_entertainment/the-nutcracker-ready-to-delight-in-ambridge-midland-and-pittsburgh/article_b058b46c-91f3-11e5-aee6-8b065f3bffe1.html
Written almost 200 years ago, the original story was a scary fairy-tale intended only for adults.
A few storyline tweaks turned "The Nutcracker" into a family favorite and cherished holiday tradition.
Two local "Nutcracker" productions open this weekend -- at Ambridge Area High School and the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh -- with another "Nutcracker" stepping forward later this month at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland.
Each show uniquely presents the dreamlike, coming-of-age tale, complete with Mouse King, Sugar Plum Fairy and toy soldiers, told with whimsy, beauty and rousing choreography.
"Whether you’re seeing it for the first or the 50th time, this ballet never loses its magic," said Terrence Orr, artistic director for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, which will perform its Pittsburgh-set "The Nutcracker" beginning this Friday through Dec. 27 at the Benedum. "Tchaikovsky’s score is sublime and the choreography is some of the most iconic in ballet. It really captures the wonder, the anticipation of Christmas, and I think that’s what makes it so timeless."
The Pittsburgh Ballet's production features more than 100 dancers performing scenes that include a moonlit snowscape, a Land of Enchantment -- and keeping with the local setting -- a mansion on Fifth Avenue in Shadyside, and a large timepiece inspired by the Kaufmann's clock landmark downtown.
Once again renting a set from the Buffalo City Ballet, the Ambridge Area School District Performing Arts Academy will present its "The Nutcracker" for the second straight year, Dec. 4 to 6, in the high school auditorium.
"It really is a holiday tradition and was really well received last year so a lot of the dancers wanted to do it again," director Ken Nickel of the Ambridge Performing Arts Academy said.
More than 60 dancers from Ambridge and some other regional school districts will perform -- along with the Cleveland Youth Ballet during "The Waltz of the Flowers," for a the show that's fanciful and charming enough to whisk you away for awhile.
"In today's world, even though it's like a fairy tale, 'The Nutcracker' makes you forget about things a little bit," Nickel said.
Even for audiences familiar with the story, "Somehow you never get tired of it," said Nickel, a former principal dancer for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Ballet West and the Dallas Ballet Company.
Though to keep his dancers on their toes, Nickel added a few new wrinkles this year, including a new opening scene and a dance segment in the party scene he was improvising just a week ago.
"Audiences will get to see something new this year," he said.
The Dec. 6 performance will benefit the Center of Hope, an Ambridge agency that provides community outreach programs. People who donate items, such as towels and blankets, will receive a coupon to buy one dinner entrée and receive the second free at Grazie’s restaurant in the Oxford Club in Wexford.
In Midland, the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center Dance Company is practicing its pirouettes for one of their performing arts center's oldest and most cherished traditions to be performed Dec. 18 through 20.
"The dancers in the production of The Nutcracker at Lincoln Park are so talented and work so hard at each role they receive," director Jennifer Verba, head of the dance department at Lincoln Park's charter school, said.
Lincoln Park's show changes a slight bit each year based on the dancers' individual talents.
"My job is to help make each dancer look at ease on stage and feel that they have the ability to perform to the best of their potential," Verba said. "Although you are not going to see anything new or shocking from year to year, you will see a first-class production."
"The Nutcracker" in Ambridge
What: "The Nutcracker" presented by Ambridge Area High School Performing Arts Academy
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4-5; 2 p.m. Dec. 6
Where: Ambridge Area High School
Tickets: $14 for adults; $10 for students.