As frequenters of our Count Basie Theatre can attest, there are December traditions (like Bobby Bandiera’s Hope Concerts, Dunbar’s Black Nativity, the Holiday Express fundraisers, and Southside Johnny’s New Year’s toast, to name but a handful), and then there are traditions — the kind that families on the greater Green have grown up with; the kind of event without which it “simply wouldn’t be Christmas in Red Bank.”
One such event returns this Saturday and Sunday, December 12 and 13, when the borough-based Company of Dance Arts returns to the Basie boards with its annual production of the Tchaikovsky ballet The Nutcracker — a milestone 30th staging of the holiday confection that’s employed the talents of generations of performers, in addition to drawing multi-generational audiences to its performances.
Choreographed by the nationally renowned Peter Anastos — and continuing its policy of mixing guest soloists from New York dance companies with local professionals and the young students of the CoDA company — the colorfully costumed production remains a direct link to a simpler “small town” era of community life, and (for the families who’ve made it a centerpiece of their seasonal gatherings) a great generator of memories, regardless of whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the 30th.
Now based in Tinton Falls, the company under founder Jennifer James Church and artistic directors Shayne and Nicholas Mishoe has seen a panoramic parade of Claras, Nutcracker Princes, Sugarplum Fairies, Mice and more dance across the stage of the venerable Monmouth Street venue over the past three decades — in some cases, watching as those diminutive mice mature and graduate to some of the featured roles in the perennial Yuletide staple. And, as has been part of the longstanding tradition, the four public shows (1 pm and 5 pm on both Saturday and Sunday) are preceded by a pair of special 10 am performances for school audiences, this Thursday and Friday.
Tickets to any of the four public performances of The Nutcracker ($20 – $40) can be reserved here — and keep it tuned to redbankgreen for more stocking-stuffers from Santa Basie, during the countdown to the 25th.