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Corvallis Community Nutcracker

Many dancers return to perform in the Corvallis Community Nutcracker, including Rick Wallace (right) who is entering his 19th year playing Drosselmeyer. The ballet opens Friday night at Corvallis High School’s Main Stage Theater.

Every December "The Nutcracker" is staged worldwide and audiences keep coming back for more.

The Chamber Ballet of Corvallis and Regional School of Ballet have performed it nearly three decades.

Part of that longevity is having performers and crew involved who love to return year after year, said artistic director Shelly Svodoba.

"We've had people in it from the very beginning that are still in it now," Svodoba said. "They kind of get hooked on it."

Most of the 125-person cast, including those backstage, are returning volunteers. Some are recurring characters, like Rick Wallace, who has danced in the role of Drosselmeyer for almost 20 years. The same goes for Bruce Givan, as the Mouse King.

"Bruce Givan started when his children were little. Now he's got grandchildren," Svodoba said.

Another key contributor is Marlana Graham, who has played Mother Ginger yearly, and has organized the production's main fundraiser event. The Mouse King Tea Party, held before Saturday's matinee performance, introduces young audience members to "The Nutcracker" story, so they can understand what's happening on stage.

Many local dance students, some of whom first appeared in the production when they were little, have taken on more challenging roles as they advance in ballet.

"The audition day, everyone is always talking about what parts they're going to play this year," Svodoba said. The auditions are open to anyone in the community taking ballet.

Holly Smith, who has been in ballet a few years, plays Clara for the first time this year.

Svodoba works to expand the show a bit each year, which she says has helped maintain its long-running success. New props include the 7-foot tall elephant Clara rides into the palace scene. This year's installment also features performers from the Rainbow Dance Theatre in the peppermint scene during Act II.

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