Dance theater brings Nutcracker to the drive-in, living rooms

A popular wintertime performance will be offered virtually this year.

This holiday season, Whidbey Island Dance Theatre is bringing “The Nutcracker”” to a North Whidbey drive-in and living rooms across the world.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the theatre filmed this year’s “Nutcracker.” The film premieres 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Blue Fox Drive-in. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $40 per carload online at Tickets purchased at the box office are $50 per carload.

Chyler White, this year’s Clara, said she is excited that the show will appear on a big screen. White, a senior at South Whidbey High School, has danced in four “Nutcracker”s.

“Unless one of the dancers becomes a movie star, we probably won’t get to say that we’re on the drive-in screen again,” White said. “It’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”

People can also stream the film on the dance theatre’s website from Dec. 11 through Jan. 5. Since the performance is available virtually, “The Nutcracker” can be viewed by anyone. DVDs will also be available for purchase.

“People don’t even have to get dressed up to see this year’s performance,” WIDT Co-Artistic Director Charlene Brown said. The dance theatre is a nonprofit pre-professional dance company founded on Whidbey Island in 1993.

This year’s show was filmed over two days at the Whidbey Children’s Theater auditorium. Some shots were taken in locations around Whidbey Island, including on the Mukilteo-to-Clinton ferry, and at Langley Marina and Fort Casey.

Aspects of the filmed performance are different, but the story remains the same. Clara receives a magical nutcracker from her Uncle Drosselmeyer.

The nutcracker prince comes to life and battles the Rat Queen. After the Rat Queen’s defeat, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince journey through the beautiful Land of the Snow and the magical Enchanted Forest. Clara returns home and is awakened from what appears to be a dream.

In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, dancers are screened for the illness before each rehearsal.

This year’s “Nutcracker” prince, Zane Vanderwood, is working on how to portray facial expressions and personality in a mask — an important part of a dance performance.

“I have to use a lot of my eyes and my eyebrows,” he said.

Vanderwood has played the prince for seven out of 10 years. He choreographs parts of the show with his mother, Susan Vanderwood, who has been involved in the show since 1993.

Susan Vanderwood said it’s been interesting to choreograph for a filmed show. Instead of creating large scenes with multiple dancers, she focused on what is seen by the camera.

Co-artistic Director Brittany Falso said the dance theatre moved forward with this year’s “Nutcracker” to provide a creative outlet for the company’s dancers. She said she believes the production provides some normalcy during a stressful time when the dancers are spending a majority of their days doing schoolwork on Zoom.

“The Nutcracker” is WIDT’s biggest fundraiser.

“I hope the community will get on board and have a “Nutcracker” night at home,” Falso said.

“We want to bring the holiday spirit into your living room this year, instead of you coming to the theater.”

  • Grace Swanson, contributing writer