A Springfield holiday tradition, ‘The Nutcracker’ returns this weekend

Ohio Performing Arts Institute to present the classic. ‘Each year it changes, it grows,’ longtime director says.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Ask some of the cast members of the Ohio Performing Arts Institute’s annual presentation of “The Nutcracker” about why it’s important and you’ll find a similar answer — Christmas in Springfield wouldn’t be the same without it.

As sure as you’ll find holiday lights downtown, cookies waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve and kids up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, the 33rd annual performance of “The Nutcracker” will again complement the holiday season with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.

With a mix of performers who have been in the show for years and a wave of newcomers interested in being part of the legacy, co-directors Scot and Amy Davidge always look forward to renewing the tradition. Another annual claim by Scot Davidge is his intention to retire, but he’s back along with playing the role of Herr Drosselmeyer.

“I must’ve done this show 60 times starting when I was age 4. That’s how much it’s meant to me,” he said. “Each year it changes, it grows. It’s like the comfort of being with friends.”

With her only other onstage appearance as the Flower Queen, Heather Hare enters the spotlight in the lead as Clara in 2022. The Shawnee junior saw earlier productions but never dreamed she’d be here.

“I saw she was a special, intriguing young lady,” Scot Davidge said.

It was Hare’s dedication to rehearse and get better that won her the part. She got directions from Davidge he’d learned from dancing pros. She also likes being a role model to the younger girls.

“We have an incredible cast and support from so many people,” Hare said. “It’s like a family.”

Ellah Smith swaps being Clara in 2021 to the Snow Queen now. Part of the fun for the cast is still getting to do the different parts.

“I want to keep going as long as I can,” said Smith.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Tessa McCaw has been in “The Nutcracker” 17 times and also has a fresh take. She’ll play the Sugar Plum Fairy and has a unique partnership with the man who’ll play the Prince: he shares the same last name and the day after Saturday’s performance, they’ll celebrate their first wedding anniversary — Kaleb McCaw.

“I’m very excited. This is our first time dance partnering together,” she said. “He’s taking a little time of my love of ballet and it’s been fun watching him transform.”

Kaleb McCaw is learning something new, but has natural athletic ability as a former football and baseball player, and Tessa will participate in throwing the ball around with him, so he’s giving back here.

“I enjoy sharing our interests,” he said.”

Driving from West Jefferson to be involved, former Springfielder Peggy Mason-Carroll has been onstage or backstage for 20 “Nutcrackers.” From working with the kids and doing costumes to performing, it’s become a part of her holiday.

“It’s the experience of working with all the kids. Each new year is difference, a whole new experience,” she said.

Mason-Carroll takes pride in it being the hometown show, enjoys seeing the kids in the community and feels special having someone come up to her at a store or restaurant and say “I saw you in ‘The Nutcracker.’”

“Being in this is a Christmas present to myself,” she said.

It’s these types of comments that keep Scot Davidge going. He’s excited by all the newcomers in the production, the family affair feel with his and Amy’s sons Sean and Logan in the cast and the atmosphere in general.

The goal is to get back to the peak of 160 cast members years ago; there’s around 80 this year. He estimates about 90 percent of the cast are OPAI students.

“We have a reputation. I see this and I think I can’t retire,” Scot Davidge said.


What: “The Nutcracker”

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, Kuss Auditorium, 300 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17

Admission: Adults $19-25, students $17-23 (plus fees)

More info: 937-328-3874 or go to www.facebook.com/ohioperformingartsinstitute

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