Homer’s Nutcracker: Tradition mixed with lots of new additions every year

When Jill Berryman stopped by Nutcracker rehearsal last Sunday to offer feedback to dancers, she said she was thrilled by the new additions to the show. Berryman directed Homer’s annual production of the Nutcracker Ballet from its debut in 1989 until five years ago, when her daughter, Sabrena “Breezy” Berryman, took over artistic direction with Jennifer Norton. 

Saturday marks the 157th performance of the Nutrcracker in Homer, and the show that opens at 3 p.m. on Dec. 5, is pretty different from its 1989 predecessor, Berryman said.

“We went to Pick ‘N Pay and got costumes. There was a group of maybe seven people in the party scene, and they were all adult performers,” she said. “The stars twinkle — we didn’t have that in the beginning. Or billowing smoke for the Rat King!”

Nor did they have an $11,000 projector, or falling snow or hip hop dance performances.

But it’s not just new technology and a larger and younger cast that make the 27th annual Nutcracker different. 

The production, which draws more than 3,000 people to Homer High’s Mariner Theatre each year, is famous for its fanciful reimagining of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet. Over the decades, the show has tried out new elements from a steampunk theme to Alice in Wonderland-inspired costumes. This year’s production, like the last, is underwater-themed. 

But unlike last year, this year’s production follows the original storyline, in which Clara’s adventures occur in a dream. And there are lots of brand new components, including:

• A Roaring Twenties setting for the party;

• Remixes of several of the traditional songs and a few entirely new compositions by local DJ Cody Davidson;

• Ilya Burov, world-renowned dancer and artistic director of education at Alaska Dance Theatre, dancing the role of the Nutcracker;

• A film, “The Tale of the Hard Nut,” by artist Kevin Co;

• L.E.D. light-decorated hula hooping by dancers playing bioluminescent phytoplankton;

• A performance on aerial silks; and

• A tango scene choreographed by Lise Klein-Kirsis.

“Tchaikovsky is probably rolling over in his grave,” joked sound director Cody Davidson.

But Homer artist Kammi Matson, who choreographed the hula hooping as well as the aerial silk performance, said she thinks the constant innovation is what makes Homer’s Nutcracker so special: “They’ve kept what works and allowed it to evolve.”

Annie Rosenthal can be reached at annie.rosenthal@homernews.com.