Northwest Florida Ballet's 43rd Annual Production of The Nutcracker
The Northwest Florida Ballet (NFB) proudly presents The Nutcracker on Fri. and Sat., Nov. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. In its forty-third year, NFB’s The Nutcracker remains the only full-length version of the classic holiday fairytale in the area and features live musical accompaniment by the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra (NFSO) under the direction of NFB Music Director David Ott.
“Returning to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center stage is always such a pleasure, and this yea,r we are honored to dedicate our production of The Nutcracker to our dear friend and former Board President Barbara Beck Lord. Her impact and lasting legacy on our organization cannot be put into words. Still, it is our honor to memorialize her with this production,” said NFB Artistic Director/CEO Todd Eric Allen.
NFB’s production includes a cast of over 140 performers, including over 100 local children and international guest artists. This season the role of Clara will be performed by Jordan Cox, with John Rayman reprising his role from last season as the high-spirited Fritz. Cox is a ninth-grader in the NFB Pre-Professional Program and Rayman is a seventh-grade student at the NFB Académie. NFB’s Artistic Director/CEO, Todd Eric Allen, returns once again to dance the role of Drosselmeyer, and Lindsey Brewer will entertain audiences as the vivacious Mouse Queen. Guest artist Courtney Shealy returns home to dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cameron McCune as her Prince Cavalier.
An NFB alum of nine years, Shealy joined the American Ballet Theater (ABT) Company in 2015 and became an apprentice with the main company a year later. She has been a member of the corps de ballet since 2017. Her repertoire includes the Aya and Lead D’Jampe in La Bayadère, the Canteen Keeper and the Spanish Dance in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, a Harlot in Romeo and Juliet, Lead Czardas in Swan Lake, a leading role in AFTERITE, and a featured role in Deuce Coupe. She created Plangon in Of Love and Rage and a featured role in A Time There Was.
Also an ABT corps de ballet member, McCune began his ballet training at the Raleigh School of Ballet at the age of eight. He attended summer programs at the Raleigh School of Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and the School of American Ballet. He won a silver medal at the Youth American Grand Prix in 2012. McCune became an apprentice with ABT in 2013 and joined the corps de ballet in 2014. His repertoire includes La Fille mal gardée, The Green Table, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Symphonic Variations and Thirteen Diversions, The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Deuce Coupe, Songs of Bukovina and Collage & Creed.
Guest artist Oliver Halkowich will delight audiences as the Nutcracker Prince and Harlequin Doll. Halkowich began his professional dance career in 2001 with the Boston Ballet and a year later joined Houston Ballet as a Corps de Ballet member. There, he rose through the ranks to First Soloist, dancing for 19 seasons with the company. Halkowich has danced various classical, contemporary and character roles in Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal Gardee, Stanton Welch’s Cinderella, George Balanchine’s Rubies and Jerome Robbin’s Fancy Free. Also a talented choreographer, he debuted his first solo commission, Following, for Houston Ballet’s 50th Anniversary season in 2019.
NFB soloist Luciana Ato will dance the role of the Snow Queen with guest artist José Soares as the Snow King. Soares will also perform as the high-flying lead Russian. One of 10 children selected to study ballet at Bolshoi School, Soares trained under Dmitry Afanasiev and Galina Kravchenko and was rehearsed by Vladimir Vasiliev. After graduating from the Bolshoi School, he was accepted into the Trainee program at the Joffrey Ballet and went on to dance with the Milwaukee Ballet’s second company. Soares has danced principal roles with Lake Erie Ballet in The Nutcracker and Dracula with the Missouri Contemporary Ballet. He was also invited to dance in Kansas City with Concept Zero and later with the Chicago Opera Theater. He currently resides in Alabama, where he teaches at the Andalusia Ballet Academy and performs in freelance roles.
Ato will also share the role of the Dew Drop Fairy with NFB company member C’Jae Ransom. The Arabian pas de trois will feature NFB company member Ava Elpedes with NFB soloist Timothy Knoll and NFB alumni and guest artist for the season Keegan Lloyd.
The NFSO, led by David Ott, will provide live musical accompaniment making NFB’s The Nutcracker a truly unique cultural experience. In his seventh year as the NFB Music Director, Ott has been cited among America’s most-performed composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music and Grammys, he has an extensive portfolio of compositions in every genre of music, from large-scale orchestra works to short overtures. Some of the most distinguished American and European orchestras have performed or recorded his works.
The NFSO is the Emerald Coast’s premiere professional orchestra and is under the leadership of Music Director Todd Craven. The 65-piece ensemble resides at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center and features internationally acclaimed guest soloists and emerging local talent.
Box office-priced tickets for The Nutcracker are $45 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets will be available at NFBallet.org or through the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box Office beginning Fri., Oct. 21. The Signature Season sponsor for The Nutcracker is Emerald Coast Magazine. NFB is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.