The Ohio Performing Arts Institute, Springfield, will present its 31st production of “The Nutcracker” at The Gloria Theatre in downtown Urbana this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but this year viewers will be watching a movie, rather than a stage production.
COVID-19 concerns and guidelines prompted the OPAI to turn the stage show into a film.
“Ideally, they’d be performing live, but unique times call for a unique approach,” said Staci Weller, CEO of The Gloria Theatre Project. “A creative and safe way to bring this to audiences was to film it and then show it as a digital feature film on the big screen. It will certainly be ‘The Nutcracker’ like it hasn’t been seen before. It will be exciting to see it shown on a big 40-foot screen with big surround sound in an auditorium that was initially built for live performances.”
The Gloria has been showing films lately, but with precautions to keep patrons as safe as possible from the coronavirus.
“Patrons are required to wear masks for entry,” Weller said. “We are fortunate to have a large auditorium with a seating capacity of more than 400, so we’ve got every other row roped off to ensure proper physical distancing.”
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door and at https:;//gloriatheatre.org/tickets
The cast includes 60 performers from the Champaign-Clark county area, including Urbana High School senior Kayla Mann as “Clara,” Graham graduate Tessa Jenkins as “The Sugar Plum Fairy” and Daniel Lavender as “The Lollipop.”
“I’m so excited to finally have gotten to dance the role I’ve been working toward for the past eight years,” Mann said of playing “Clara.” “I’ve performed many roles all the way from ‘soldier’ up through ‘Clara’ this year.”
Mann has appeared in other OPAI productions and is a member of the Springfield Ballet Theatre, a pre-professional dance company directed by OPAI.
Describing the character “Clara,” she said, “Clara is a young girl who is given the ‘perfect gift’ from her uncle for Christmas and then has a magical dream filled with battles, dancing snowflakes, flowers and a visit to Land of the Sweets.
“It’s a fun Christmas story performed as a ballet by a group of young and older talent from the Springfield and Urbana communities,” she said.
One plus about this year’s production being a movie is that the cast can join family, friends and fellow actors in watching the final product. Of course, to some actors there is nothing like being on a stage.
“While filming a movie, you don’t get the adrenaline you usually have with the lights, fast pace and audience of a stage performance,” Mann said. “Filming was a fun, but exhausting, experience since we shot the whole thing in one day.
“It will be a really neat experience to actually get to watch the performance on the big screen myself this year,” she said. “Usually, being on the stage or backstage during the show, I’ve never actually gotten to watch it myself.”
She expressed appreciation to The Gloria for making the move to the “big screen” possible.
“Please come out and see the show,” is Mann’s message to readers. “A lot of hard work is put into this production every year, and seeing ‘The Nutcracker’ is a big part of a lot of people’s holiday traditions.”
This year’s “Nutcracker” is a joint fundraiser, with proceeds benefiting both The Gloria Theatre and the Ohio Performing Arts Institute.
“We have wanted to collaborate with the OPAI,” Weller said. “We were excited to participate. Many of The Gloria’s patrons are from the northern part of Springfield and our vision is for The Gloria to give Urbana and the surrounding communities an entertainment performing arts and events venue along with a cozy gathering place. We hope to do more joint ventures with OPAI in the future.”
Reach Kathy Fox at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.