‘The Nutcracker’ to take Springfield stage again

One of the area’s annual gifts to the seasonal arts will be unwrapped a little earlier this holiday season, and back where it belongs a year after the pandemic modified it in 2020.

The Ohio Performing Arts Institute’s (OPAI) 32nd annual presentation of “The Nutcracker” is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.

The 2020 Christmas season mostly delivered lumps of coal, as the pandemic wiped out live performances and large gatherings. OPAI offered a creative solution when several groups stepped up to produce a filmed version of “The Nutcracker” and played on its website and on the big screen of Urbana’s Gloria Theatre to at least capture some of the magic.

This year hasn’t been much easier for OPAI artistic director D. Scot Davidge, who has guided “The Nutcracker” since its beginning here. The pandemic meant fewer students taking classes and not having income from the live “Nutcracker” was tough in keeping OPAI going. But it didn’t discourage him from making sure the classic made it back to the Kuss Auditorium stage.

“We did everything and anything to keep the studio going. We have survived and we’re not going away,” Davidge said.

While this presentation may be a bit different – he tries to present each in a unique way – due to fewer kids, it will be made up for in other ways. The cast normally has 130-140, but up to 70 will be here in 2021.

The battle scene between the toys and mice army will be a smaller scale but more intricate, Davidge said. And the male role of the Mouse King is being modified to become the Mouse Queen, not as a concession to changing times but using the talent he has in the most appropriate way.

“These kids are holding their own and pushing hard and the new kids are coming along,” he said.

Davidge also faced not knowing if the Kuss stage would be available, a later auditioning process and a shorter window for rehearsals. Normally, they’d have three weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday to prepare, and this year rehearsals conflicted with the holiday.

It also meant the annual matinee performance for school kids had to be sacrificed as field trips are being limited.

“I don’t mind doing this earlier, but it has been another big difference fighting Thanksgiving schedules,” Davidge said.

Kaitlin Musik has been around OPAI since she was 3, with plenty of “Nutcracker” performances, and now at age 22 is helping as an instructor and will play the Chinese Princess. She’s enjoyed watching the youngest cast members develop and bring enthusiasm.

That translates into what goes into the production and to the audience.

“This is always my favorite part of the year. I just like the feeling of being around the people here,” she said. “You never get the same show twice.”

Amelia Clairmont did gymnastics growing up, but longed to perform ballet. She’s gotten the chance by doing the show five times now, and will make history as the Mouse Queen, modified from the Mouse King for this production, but doesn’t feel the pressure of the variation on the role, just the opposite.

“This is very de-stressing for me, it’s a great way to stay active,” said Clairmont, a 27-year-old government contractor.

The cast will also feature several students from the Developmental Disabilities of Clark County program. OPAI has done a weekly class for the program since 2018, which was the most consistent group in 2021 that helped keep the studio going, and the participants are enthusiastic.

Despite being offered a teaching position at Cal-Poly University in California, Davidge turned it down, saying he can’t leave OPAI at this time. Continuing to bring “The Nutcracker” to the community is part of that dedication.

“We want to help make people aware of the arts and what they can do,” he said.

Those attending performances of “The Nutcracker” are asked to wear a mask in accordance with Clark State health and safety guidelines.


What: The Nutcracker

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

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 4

Admission: Adults $20-28 plus fees; student and children’s tickets are also available

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

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