Judy Russells production of the Nutcracker is taking the stage for its 20th anniversary this year, and with it comes with a few changes on stage and off.
Presented by Judy Russell and the Prince George Symphony Orchestra, the Nutcracker runs five shows at Vanier Hall Dec. 16 to 18.
This year, Nutcracker narrator, the beloved Bunny Murray, will not take her usual chair at the corner of the stage to recount the dreamy tale this year.
Mrs. M, as Bunny Murray is known, passed away July 17, 2011 but her memory will live on during the time honoured, spoken-word tradition that is a favourite part of the world's most popular Christmas ballet.
Also new to this year's centre stage is Tristan Ghostkeeper, 16, as the Nutcracker prince.
Ghostkeeper came to the art later than most. At 10 years old, he found his passion for dance amongst a sport-minded family.
"I've been dancing for about six years and started with hip hop and acro," said Ghostkeeper, who played a Snow Boy, an Arabian and a Mouse in previous Nutcracker productions.
Contemporary dance is his favourite, but it all came together in ballet just this year, he said. "It's all finally starting to click for me."
Because of the highly demanding schedule of the show, the lead female role of Clara is shared by two dancers, Ashley Bradley and Kyra Sinclair.
"We all connect really well and we're very good friends so it's worked out really well dancing with each girl," Ghostkeeper said. "That makes it easy to work in the studio."
And he said he's especially grateful to have a teacher like Judy Russell.
"I'm really lucky to have such a great ballet teacher," said Ghostkeeper. "She's like a second mother to all of us. She really knows us well."
"It proves what determination and perseverance can do," said Russell of Ghostkeeper's late start in dance. "And finding the right place for yourself and recognizing it and going for it. Tristan is just a great entertainer."
The Nutcracker, by Russian composer Tchaikovsky, is the story of a rather mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer, who gives his favourite niece, Clara, a magical nutcracker during her parents' annual Christmas party.
The toy comes to life and transports Clara to a land of fantasy, where she and the Nutcracker Prince share many adventures.
The prince who danced the first Judy Russell production of the Nutcracker 20 years ago, Chris Larsen, has returned to the stage as the Snow King this year. Larson was the same age as Ghostkeeper is now when Russell choreographed the ballet's debut.
The 20th anniversary performance of Judy Russells Nutcracker with the PGSO runs Dec. 16 to Dec. 18 with shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Reserved seats are $22 to $32 plus taxes and fees at Studio 2880, 2880 Fifteenth Avenue or call 250-563-2880.