The Nutcracker - Renegade Theatre

| 27 Comments

27 Comments

"The Nutcracker"

By Jarad Reiser

Bright flashing lights, a great story, and emotional acting are what make "The Nutcracker" something special! The make believe is brought to life in this new aged production of a timely favorite. This show is not the typical traditional holiday performance.

The small venue evokes a very personal feel. When one of the actors on stages gets frightened by a rat jumping out, the audience feels the same intensity. Even something as small as tears running down the face of Clara (Kier Zimmerman) during the scene with her brother in the attic evokes a true sadness felt by the crowd. Because of the small atmosphere it is easy to get a sense of who each character is. The acting of this show is top notch! Uncle Drosselmeyer ( Zachary Stofer) is phenomenal. He does a commendable job of staying in character and having body movements and actions on stage that keep his sense of joy and hope very vivid. He provides much comic relief during stressful scenes that the parents put act out. Another shining star in this performance was monkey (Evan Kelly). Both children and adults could not contain the laughs brought on by this colorfully hilarious character. The accent brought many uproars. The father David (Joshua Stenvick) was skillfully played as well. His emotions of intense anger were heavily felt during the scene when uncle Drosselmeyer was required to leave the household. Not to be forgotten are the darkly playful rats! These creepy hissing creatures brought so much life to the show! The rat gang held strong through many fight scenes and brought a goose bump producing rat king to life!

The great acting was brought even more to existence by the dazzling lights and easily transitional props of the show. The strobe lights during the food fight was such a great idea! It made the audience really feel like life was in slow motion. Also during the scene with the rat king, it felt like being trapped inside a wall! Turning off all the lights during scene changes and having the rats scurry around was an excellent suggestion as well. Having the fire place double as a prop which could be rotated and entered at either end was a very useful contribution. Using it as a portal for the toys to come out, while the fireplace was used for rats to crawl up was a very versatile way to incorporate two props in one. The sound was crystal clear in the venue as well. The room was filled with a Christmas rock song during scene changes which made watching the rats all the more entertaining.

Overall, this modern version of an old story was excellently crafted by not only the producer, but an amazing cast and crew that put their hearts into this show. Look around for some of the main acts in this show, because there is a lot of talent in the performing arts community of Duluth. Enough good cannot be said about this amazing performance!

Sophia Carlson
The Nutcracker
December 12, 2012

Everyone knows the uplifting holiday production of the Nutcracker. Well now, the Renegade Theatre has put a modern twist on this loved Christmas classic. The show is put on in a much smaller vicinity than usual, which makes the production more personal and connects the audience and actors on a higher level. Every mood in the show is felt personally through the audience as well. When the rat king comes on stage, you can sense the fright, and when there is sadness, the audience is sad. Having the show in a smaller space intensifies the overall feel of the play.

The acting in the show was great! Uncle Drosselmeyer (Zachary Stofer) brought the laughs to the stage in stressful or serious scenes which brought comic relief to the atmosphere. He also did a fantastic job at providing hope and joy throughout the performance. Another character that brought laughs to all ages in the audience was Monkey (Evan Kelly). His accent was hysterical and brightened the room. The Father David (Joshua Stenvick) did a great job at portraying the seriousness and staying in character to really make the audience feel the show was real. The audience could feel all of the emotions portrayed by Father David throughout the whole show. Even the little playful rats brought life to the stage and kept the audience engaged. Every actor in the show added their own little spark.

The transitions between the scenes was done in a very fun and clever way. The little rats with the rockin’ Christmas tunes playing was an interesting way to transition. Also, the props used in the show were easy to move across the stage and made the scene changes seem very smooth. The fireplace was used as an entrance onto the stage for the toys and for the rats to climb on. This was very clever. Another thing that really contributed to the show was the bright lights. They were always bright and beautiful to bring the holiday spirit. There were even strobe lights going on during the food fight which made it seem like it was in slow-motion. This was a very cool effect. The sound used in the show was great and really set the mood for the atmosphere.

Overall, everything in this modern twist of the Nutcracker was put together in a marvelous way. This show is great for all ages and is guaranteed a great time. Get into the holiday spirit and visit the Renegade Theatre to see a new and different version of a Christmas classic!

The Nutcracker at the Renegade Theater Company was a Christmas classic worth bringing the kids to. The Nutcracker, directed by Katy Helbacka, is known for ballet and turned it into a hybrid of a musical and a play. It was a delight to see a new twist on a Christmas story that has been down through the ages. One twist that Helbacka did was the music that had the electric guitar jamming to every song or transition throughout the play. Helbacka’s transitions were really smooth by incorporating the “Rats” and their dancing when there was a scene change. This was a great way to keep things going and to show the rat’s personality throughout the play. Helbacka incorporated a lot of singing and dancing in the Nutcracker and used the whole stage as well as the audience. This keeps the audience’s attention as well as the suspense, since some of the scenes were scary when the lights were off and all you could see were the rat’s reds eyes.

One of the themes of the play that the nutcracker embraced is the Christmas spirit even in rough times. Fritz played by Mathew Smith was coming back from the war for Christmas but ended up dying instead. Fast forward a year and the family in shambles. Throughout the play the Christmas spirit comes back slowly and the family learns to let their hard feelings of Fritz dying. They start becoming more of a tight nit family again knowing that Fritz is with them in spirit and is truly not dead. Fritz also taught Clara played by Kier Zimmerman to keep going and not to let her past dictate her future. Zimmerman finally learned to let go of her big brother Fritz and not to forget about him but to let the past be the past.

Some of the best characters that made the play were Clara’s toys. Monkey played by Mathew Smith, Hugo played Cory Anderson, Phoebe played by Jennie Ross, and last but not least Teddy played by Andy Bennett. These characters is what made the play light hearted. Some of the scenes were scary or darker with the different types of lighting and music, and Clara’s toys kept the audience laughing. Helbacka incorporated the toys with the singing and dancing to. The fight scenes that the toys were involved were very artistic and well planned out. The choreographer-Amber Burns used the music and the dancing to illustrate the story through song and dance. Also the fight scenes were exciting because they had strobe lights, and would go in slow motion when the toys and rats were fighting. I think it was also hard with a small stage and a lot of characters to do a fight scene in the limited amount of space available. Also the toys help Clara give confidence in her and stand up to the rats and overcome the sorry she must have felt a year after her brother died and bring back the Christmas spirit.

To sum up, the Nutcracker has been done as a ballet before and other plays, but Helbacka has her own interpretation that will keep the whole family happy.

The Nutcracker a holiday tradition play without ballet was shown down at Duluth’s very own Renegade Theatre. The small audience brought a sense of intimacy with the cast and audience. It was directed by Katy Helbacka and included hilarious humor, which also incorporated Christmas traditions, perfect for anyone this holiday season.

An American Holiday classic with a twist, The Nutcracker is about a young girl, Clara and her nutcracker. The play starts off a bit slow at first with a busy Christmas party. That day the family finds out their son Fritz has died in battle when a soldier comes to the door and returns his sword. The play quickly jumps to the next year at Christmas time when the family decided to not have a Christmas party. But when the hilarious, out spoken Uncle Drosselmeyer shows up everything changes. This is where the play starts getting interesting.

The scene fades out and jumps to a year later and just a few days before Christmas. Uncle Drosselmeyer shows up unexpected and learns there is no Christmas party! He gives Clara a nutcracker that looks exactly like her brother, Fritz. The plot begins when Clara is filled with joy by this preset but her parents upset. The plot thickens when Clara starts to see rats and even more when her toys come to life! Clara is determined to fight off the rats and keep Christmas alive, but at what stakes?

At first, most people would be against a ballet free version of The Nutcracker for the thought it might be boring. This play was anything but boring and far from ordinary. It includes dancing and singing from all characters and on such a small stage, it is amazing how they all make the space work for them. It’s a unique version of the The Nutcracker that is unlike what most people have seen.

The director uses space very wisely during this production. At certain points when the rats dance they seemed to be climbing the walls and be high up in the air. After closely looking, one may see that they had climbed the walls! There were slots in the bricks that made it very easy to use all the space and items they had. These actors and actresses did not stay on stage the whole time either. Many times the characters were walking down the middle of the audience to get to the stage. The space was so wisely used and gave the play a much more open feeling to it.

The costumes were anything but original. Actors and actresses dressed in skintight spandex, black leotards, and black tights played the rats. On top of their head was a long snout with long black whiskers and beady red lights as their eyes. The play nailed the creepy costume as well as the other costumes. Red eyes shined when the lights were completely off and were used to their full advantage during the acting and even dancing scenes. Black eye shadow and makeup covered many of their faces with dark black eye shadow giving a dark evil vibe.

Uncle Drosselmeyer was played by the very talented actor Zach Stofer, he gave his character a hilarious voice impersonation; the actor could not have done a better job. His costume consisted of an eye patch, with dress pants and shirt, and of course holiday socks. The outfit was exactly what people would expect Uncle Drosselmeyer to wear. His character was all around one of the highlights of the play and was one of the first things that got the audience laughing. This characters imagination and belief in magic keeps an ongoing plot but also helps his great niece to believe in what she knows to be true.

Clara and her family had costumes that were not out of the ordinary and were suiting for a home. The costume designer picked very normal clothes for the parents that included a simple dress for the mother and pants and a dress shirt for the father. The only other costume these characters had were pajamas, which were also not anything extraordinary. The costumes that Clara’s toys used were simply hilarious and looked very well realistic for toys. They looked exactly like the toys she had played with, in earlier scenes. The rag doll, robot, and sock monkey were exactly as they looked as toys and were even more hilarious when they “came to life”.

The lighting had many simple effects for this play. One of the main lighting effects ends the play with Fritz standing in a soldier stance and then saluting. With the rats having red lights as eyes, this play was very dark in certain scenes, for the rat king scene they also used red lighting. This gives an even creepier vibe than just having the room be dark. The white backdrop changes color for some rooms. The lighting gave the right effect for each room and with such a small amount of space they did an out of the ordinary production. The rat’s costumes were also lighted and were especially creepy when the lights were completely off.

When the play comes to an end, Uncle Drosselmeyer stands by Clara and her parents as they say good-bye to Clara’s nutcracker, Fritz. With a small error of the snow falling and coming down at once, the actors stayed in character and with small smiles kept their performance going. The actors stayed in character and had a professional reaction to this slight error. However, this got most of the audience practically rolling on the floor from laughter.

For audience members who are afraid of The Nutcracker at Renegade without the ballet and or for those who expect it to be anything like the ballet, they are mistaken. This play is not what people could expect. The play consists of talented actors, no major errors, dancing, singing, and most of all hilariously scenes that couldn’t have been done any better. The Nutcracker directed by Katy Helbacka is definitely a must see for those who are looking for a holiday play that is different from anything they have seen before.

If, when envisioning The Nutcracker, a ballet war of epic proportions comes to mind, then the version preformed by the Renegade Theater Company will be a surprise. The ballet is very successfully modified into a much more contemporary play. This format is much more engaging to the average audience member, and therefore more accessible.
Just because it is not a ballet does not mean that there is no dancing! The choreography was one of the many highlights. The strange numbers were very illustrative and artistic, sometimes featuring a strobe slow-motion effect. Utilizing dance as a mechanism for the battle scenes was visually stimulating and highly effective.
Strangely, the scene changes were also a highly engaging highlight. The scene changes were transformed into sinister asides to the story by featuring the rats. Foreshadowing of the monster yet to come was achieved through the continual appearance of these disturbing creatures. Most importantly, the audience was engaged in these transitional moments, which helped to more effectively built tension.
As always, the design elements of the show were stunning. Each rat sported a headpiece with beady, glowing, red eyes. Many scenes featured low lighting, so this use of technology truly emphasized the presence of the rats. The main stage piece was very cleverly designed as well. The front side featured the fireplace in the living room, while the reverse showed a shelf and toy box in Clara’s bedroom. A flap in the fireplace hid the hole that connected the fireplace to the toy box. Actors were therefore able to enter or exit stage through the fireplace or the toy box. These moments were very surprising and strengthened the immersion of the audience into the wonder of the story.
The main highlight of the show had to be the outstanding performances from each of the performers. Zachary Stofer stole the show with his depiction of Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer. He was hilarious at all of the appropriate moments, but very somber when necessary. His stage presence was commanding—despite the other very talented actors, or what else might be occurring thematically, Stofer was the center of attention when he was on stage.
Clara, performed by Kier Zimmerman, too, had a stellar performance. Clara was the most dynamic character, and therefore much emotional turmoil needed to be portrayed. Zimmerman succeeded in illustrating the light-hearted qualities of a child, the difficult emotional journey of one who loses a sibling, and the toughness of someone when it is time to kick-ass!
Kate Zehr and Joshua Stenvick, whom coincidentally also portrayed a couple in UMD Theater’s production of White Baby, are another notable mention in this production. They were cast as mother and father, Martha and David. Zher and Stenvick believably captured the destitute quality of parents in such a horrific situation. They grounded the fantasy elements of the play, and were strong contributors to the most beautiful scene in the show.
Snow began to fall, thick and heavy, as Clara, Martha, David and Erich took the stage. They began to sing a hauntingly sad Christmas tune, as they finally said their goodbyes. The intimacy of the Theatro Zuccone made it nearly impossible for any audience member to avoid the tear-inducing effects of this spectacular scene. After so much laughter, empathy, sadness and Christmas spirit, the show drew to a close. The Nutcracker left the audience drained, yet unbelievably satisfied— even the Grinch could not resist the appeal of this show.

If you have some idea on what the play The Nutcracker is going to be like before this show, then be for that thought to change. The Nutcracker performed at the Renegade Theater Company was not your ordinary type of Nutcracker play. In the back of your mind you are thinking of a mini war of rats and people with ballet dancing throughout the story. But when this production begins, there is no ballet throughout the play which makes it a different unique version to The Nutcracker. With the audience being a smaller one and the stage close to the audience, it makes it even more exciting for the viewers to be watching. You feel as if you’re involved into the play that it is happening with you in. You can feel the emotions that are happening throughout the play and may even experience them yourself such as fear and sadness.

Many of the actors and actresses made the play an even more delightful experience. One of the crowd’s favorites you could tell was the character Phoebe played by Jennie Ross and also the character the Monkey played by Evan Kelly. Phoebes overall personality was a hit with the audience including all her “I love you” and her movements and dancing skills on stage. The Monkey was entertaining with all that he did. The responses he would have and his actions he did on stage, you could not help but giggle at most everything he did. Another great actor was Zachary Stofer who played Uncle Drosselmeyer. The accent he had for his character was exquisite. Lastly we can’t forget about the rats. All of them did such a brilliant job in playing their roles. With them playing with one another while changing sets to their evil giggles was a great add to the play. They added something extra to changing the sets while the audience just sitting there in silence.

The stage was a very ideal set for this production in the space that they had. There was not too much, and there was not too little. The scenic design was done by Evan Kelly and props and mask designer was done by Erin Ohland. There was a Christmas tree on the set which represented that it was Christmas time for the setting of this play. There also was this big main piece that on one side was a fireplace for the living room and on the other was a dresser and toy chest for Clara’s room. That was a very smart prop that was used for their stage space and size.

One great thing that can’t be left out was the costumes of the play. The costumes were done by Kathleen Martin. She did a wonderful job in designing these ones. The rat’s costumes were just so unique. One of the highlights on the rat’s costumes was their red eyes that lit up. Those were a great touch for those costumes and also for the play. One moment it would be dark, and then all of a sudden you would see these red eyes which meant the rats were there. The costumes of the toys were very good as well, especially the Monkey and Hugo costumes. The monkey costume looked really similar to the monkey doll and it was even greater because a man had to wear a footy pajama looking costume. The robot costume was as well a great idea from Kathleen.

This performance was anything but bad. It takes your mind to a whole complete different twist. At first when thinking that there isn't going to be any ballet dancing so it’s not going to be your typical Nutcracker play, don’t be let down. After seeing the play with this twist to it, you will be anything but disappointed once the performance is over.

I have only seen The Nutcracker preformed as a ballet, so naturally I was excited to see Renegade's production of the holiday classic.

The small intimate setting of the stage really adds to the performance. It really helps the members of the audience feel like they are included in the story.

The charterers were unforgettable! It was such a great idea to have the toys come alive and be part of the experience as well. A clear audience favorite had to be monkey (Evan Kelly) and Phoebe (Jennie Ross). Ross' dancing and all her "i love you" had the audience captivated.

Renegade always seems to take simple things and make them fantastic. for example, the lighting. It was pretty plain and simple but they used just enough elements (like with the rat's eyes) that made a huge impact on the audience!

Towards the end of the play as the characters say goodbye to Fritz, snow starts to really come down, there was one unfortunate error, instead of the snow looking like it was falling, it all came down in one big clump! The audience erupted in laughter, but the actors/actresses stayed right in scene which was very impressive!

Overall, this production was a great success! I was a little apprehensive about how they were going to preform this without any ballet involved, and I left being thoroughly impressed! a perfect show to see during the holiday season!

"The Nutcracker"
By: Courtney Johnson
The Christmas classic of "The Nutcracker", was done by the Renegade Theater Company. The Renegade Theater Company decided to do this production but by making this classic more modernized. This production was done in a smaller theater, making the audience have a more enjoyable experience by letting them connect to the actors in the play.
The director of this production, Katy Helbacka, did an extraordinary job. She was able to take the original ballet and transform it to more of a musical. In order to keep the play alive, Helbacka decided to have an electric guitar present in every transition and in the music as well. Each scene was transitioned nicely to the next because of the dancing rats. By doing this, this made the play run smoothly and make it more interesting. Also, Helbacka made the production so that the whole stage was used and the aisles throughout the audience as well. This made it so that it seemed like the audience was feeling what the actors were portraying on stage.
Helbacka was not the only one who did their job well. In fact, the costume designer, the person who was in control of the lighting, and of course the actors all took part in making this production a memorable one.
The costume designer of this play, Kathleen Martin, did a wonderful job in creating the costumes. The one costume that stood out the most, were the costumes that the rats had. Their eyes would light up red, which at times would catch the audiences attention when the lights would go out and all that was seen were the red eyes. Other costumes that were pretty neat were the monkey costumes and the robot costume!
The lighting that was done throughout the production was awesome. At times, during the creepy parts, there would be red lighting during the scene of the king rat. As said early, the rats costumes also had the eyes be red lights, which gave the audience a chill when it was just the eyes showing. On a lighter note, the lighting for each room was done up nicely and was appropriate!
The actors of the play were wonderful! In the play, Phoebe (Jennie Ross) and the monkey (Evan Kelly) were a total hit! Phoebe was adored by the audience and the monkey was what kept the play entertaining. Lastly, the rats were what kept the production alive during the transitions! Without the rats the audience would be kept waiting during the scene changes.
This production is a must see for the family! Especially, around this time of the year! The ballet dancing is not part of the show, however that is what makes this play unique and stand out!

Cassie Gazzolo's Review on The Nutcracker 12/12:

The Renegade Theatre Company did a performance of The Nutcracker, a Christmas classic. The Nutcracker is known for its ballet, director Katy Helbacka created a musical play. Seeing a performance of The Nutcracker that was not typical was something very unique for a classical Christmas story.

The Nutcracker is about a young girl, Clara and her nutcracker. It starts off with a busy Christmas party. The family also finds out their son Fritz died in battle when his fellow soldiers come to return his sword. The play then jumps to Christmas the following year and the family decides not to have a Christmas party. When Uncle Drosselmeyer shows up the plans change. The plot begins with Clara being joyful of her nutcracker gifted from her Uncle and then starts getting intense when Clara starts seeing rats and toys coming to life. Clara wants to fight off the rats in order to keep Christmas alive.

Helbacka made good use of the space. During the performance the rats would dance and seem to be flying into the air, after looking more closely they were climbing the walls! The bricks made it easy to use as much space as they could. Many of the actors did not stay on the stage for the entire performance, most used the isles by the audience to get to the stage.

The lighting effects were simple, however, created a wonderful performance. Each scene would have different color effects to represent the scenario. For example, during the scene of the kind rat the lighting was red. The rats even had red lights as eyes. The white background would often change colors for different scenes as well. The lighting was just right for each different scene and made the stage stand out with the limited space that they had available.

Kathleen Martin was the costume designer, she did a great job creating the costumes for the performance. Skintight spandex, black leotards, and black tights were the costumes for the rats. The rats wore long snouts with whiskers and red lights for the eyes. The costumes were anything but original and really helped set the tone of the performance.

The acting in the performance couldn't have been any better! Zachary Stofer played Uncle Drosselmeyer who brought laughs in every scene he was in. Evan Kelly played Monkey, whose accent was phenomenal. Joshua Stenvick played David the father, staying in character which was extremely believable and you were able to see the emotions of Stenvick and his character David. Every single one of the actors in the performance contributed to the show in their own ways.

The performance of The Nutcracker by Renegade Theatre Company did a wonderful job, it was a great twist to the classic ballet version of The Nutcracker. The performance isa must see this holiday season and is a great way to get into seeing performances in the Duluth area. Whether you see this performance with your family or friends every is sure to enjoy the show!

The Nutcracker, presented at Renegade Theatre Company was a great twist to a classic ballot. Combining rock music, a modern feel and great choreography gives this classic plenty of charm to have anyone wanting to come back and bring more people in.

The music and lighting for The Nutcracker was interesting. The music choice for the production was a mixture of hard rock/metal and classical holiday themes. The combination worked well to show the intensity in the scenes. The only one that felt out of place was at the announcement of Fritz’s death to the family, too much metal. The music was used very well to complement the lighting, which worked great during the choreographed battles, darker colors with violent movements helped out in intensifying the scenes. As the lights changed to show night, softer music would play to go with the mood of a quit night. Clever use of the back drop to show the dark red eyes of the rats and rat king, giving it more of a frightening look that the rats deserved.

The actors gave us there performance at a high energy level. From the crazy yet wise Uncle Erich to the malicious rats, the cast gave us very creative characters with personality and feelings. This energy can even be seen in fun choreography preformed, creative use of the tails of the rats of emphasizing beats to the songs, or even to the little random between character during the fight scenes like monkey “motivating” the group. One thing that the actors could look into is putting a bit more work into the singing, they finished strong, but more of that energy in beginning would fill the room better.

The production itself went very well. With more actual speaking than there was dancing, it cleared up the story a bit more, and this also allowed for more creative liberty. An example is giving the rats more personality or even broader showing how the family feels through the whole event. Yes, ballet can convey emotion and a story that goes along with it, but this rendition can be another side of it showing more clearly what is going on. Highlights for this show are definitely the presentation of the story, and the dancing going on.

The Nutcracker by Jake Minton and Phillip Klapperich was absolutely enchanting. With Christmas being in the air there was nothing more heartwarming then going to see the Nutcracker on Thursday the 13th at the Teatro Zuccone. The atmosphere of this place was warm and cozy and one could not pick a bad seat in the house. For being a smaller venue than one would imagine, the scenic designer and the choreographer really used the space well. Being in such a small place I was not a huge fan of being able to hear the little giggles laughs and small talk around the area.

At the beginning of the play when they are stetting up the back ground for the audience, I was enthralled to see the main characters Martha and David embrace each other with a warming kiss. Starting off the play with a tragic family accident is always something that will pull at the audience heartstrings. That really set the mood and I was curious to see how they would be able to bring it back up. They always manage to bring it to a happy mode. Clara starts to make cookies and bring the holiday spirit by doing so. Not to mention she was doing so with her toys that come alive to real life. The mice in the play really confused me and did not give me the best feeling when watching. The fact they were the ones that were changing the set was even more confusing.

The actors really provided the audience with believable characters. I was over the top impressed with how the characters came alive out of the chest. Clara is in her room just minding her own business and before you know it Fritz comes alive and Clara is just ecstatic. The other toys such as the Monkey, Hugo and Phoebe really made the play. They never leave character. The energy they provided the crowd was so enjoyable. The sock monkey’s humor was hilarious and accent was over the top.

The set being small like I mentioned really I think would have been hard to play with the set. They still managed very well. Making things double sided, and showing a lot of different diversity. The costume designer really hit all the keynotes. I really enjoyed the vintage look and holiday spirit. When the characters were all there for the annual Christmas party at their house there costumes/outfits were ideal. The ugly sweater vibe and the vintage plaid really made the entire whole feel there. I really enjoyed the mice costumes with the burning red eyes.

I would recommend this play to a lot of families. This was a very enjoyable and family orientated, and it really got me in to mood for Christmas. The way they started this play from the introduction when they mention please shut off your cell phones all the way to the ending scene it was an overall great play. It was heart warming and really gave the Christmas spirit.


The Nutcracker
Jordan Kranick

This holiday season, Renegade Theater presented The Nutcracker for the Duluth community to enjoy. Katy Helbacka and her team’s execution with scenic design and a clever artist perspective created an entertaining and aesthetically pleasing performance for all ages.

At the beginning of the play, the audience was seated in front of a proscenium stage with minimal props. On the left hand side there was a brick fireplace and a tree on the far right. Little did the audience know, the props were going to be reused and/or transformed throughout the rest of the performance. During the first transition from the living room into Clara’s bedroom, the fireplace was turned around, revealing a toy chest and a bookshelf. The holes from the fireplace and the inside of the toy chest were also used as a passageway for actors to enter and exit the set. In addition, the tree was used as a christmas decoration, as well as a tree outside that was planted when Fritz was born.

From an audience member’s point of view, lighting design might not seem very important. However, without a careful plan, the success of the play would have diminished quickly. One specific example of useful lighting technique was used when the rats came out of the walls. Their red-colored eyes were used, not only as a tool to move around set in the dark, but also had a demonic feel that reinforced their evil intentions.

When Clara and her toys were in the attic, a yellow light casted the shadow of a window frame on the stage. This helped the audience follow the time of day and enhanced a warmer feel—which reassured them that the future was bright.

Last but not least, the play finished with the shadow of a Nutcracker on the scrim. This ended the performance with a light-hearted feel and implied, that even though Fritz was no longer alive, his spirit lived within the Nutcracker.

Although the main focus of scenic design is to be visually attractive, a deeper meaning was implemented throughout the play. One example of this was in Clara’s bedroom. The bookshelf itself seemed like just an additional prop to help with the room design, but the more observant eye might have caught what was within its shelves. A box labeled “Chemistry Kit” sat towards the top. This was especially ironic considering the entire play focused on fixing the emotional chemistry between all of the characters.

The costumes also displayed this irony. Throughout the performance, the more a character’s Christmas spirit was lifted, the more red they began to wear. For instance, Clara, who believed in Christmas more than anyone else, was wearing red socks from the very beginning of the play. When Uncle Eric made a surprise visit, he was also wearing red socks underneath his suit. As Clara’s parents progressively started understanding the importance of celebrating Christmas, they too, began wearing more red.

The thoughtful scenic design used throughout the play was implemented all the way to the end of the theatrical experience. When audience members exited the space, an oversized Nutcracker was placed by the door, wishing them a wonderful Holiday season. With one night left, it would be a mistake not to go see this Christmas classic.

The Nutcracker
By Ryan Olsen

A modern adaptation of the Nutcracker ballet, Renegade’s version of the Nutcracker is slightly different in plot but still the same story of innocents triumphing over evil to save Christmas. It was fairly good considering the low budget and size of the stage would make a ballet not practical, although it felt like there was an undertone of anti-war and anti-military involved. Besides the anti-war sentiment it was also hard to place the time period of this adaptation between the world traveling Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer, portrayed brilliantly by Zachary Stofer, and the somewhat modern possessions of the family paired with the Christmas rock music. Fritz played by Matthew Smith was good at the acting and dance portions but when it came to singing Smith didn’t exactly nail his role.
The Rats did quite well, very creepy although a few stutters here and there didn’t go unnoticed, the rat king portion was a little strange with the prerecorded dubbed voices of the rats but overall very effective.
The toys were very convincing in each of their respective roles, Monkey played by Evan Kelly, Hugo the robot played by Cory Anderson and Phoebe played by Jennie Ross all did a great job of providing comic relief after the rats finished there acts.
Both Martha played by Kate Zehr and David played by Joshua Stenvick were both great although for anyone in the crowd who had seen White Baby it was probably a little weird.
Finally Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer, Stofer was fantastic he executed each of his lines brilliantly and never broke character, even the look in his eyes was perfectly suited to his role.
The stage design was very efficient, connecting the toy chest on one side of the piece to the fireplace on the other side. The change in scenes was smooth with all the furniture on wheels plus utilizing the rats in there black costumes with the dimmed lights to move the things on the stage was very effective.
The cast broke the forth wall a few times during the play which was a little odd and unnecessary. A few characters also exited the stage by walking through aisle. Overall it seamed like the cast did a few things that didn’t make sense but besides that it was very well done if not confusing at times.

Kaitlyn Knutson
Theatre Review
The Nutcracker

The Renegade Theatre Company's version of The Nutcracker was not what you would think of when you think of going to see it. Their version had no ballet dancing throughout the play. There was some little dance scenes but it was definitely no ballet. The Renegade Theatre Company pulled off their own great version of The Nutcracker with the audience being pleased of the performance. There was laughter from everywhere in the audience throughout the entire play and a lot of clapping.

There was a lot of change in lighting throughout the whole play which helped made the play not be boring and not like other plays where the whole stage is lit up the whole time since it was constantly changing. The entire stage was lit up blue when the family finds out that Fritz has died and will not be coming home for Christmas. The blue lighting definitely set the mood for that scene because you could actually feel the family being sad and mourning with the blue lighting making the theatre partly dark. There were multiple scenes with a strobe light in them. It was a cool effect since it was used for when slow motion parts for when the toys and the rats would be fighting and for some dancing parts. The strobe light helped make the scenes even look more like the actors were in slow motion. When the rats would be on stage the lighting would be darker and change to red. This was because the rats did not like the light and which is why they lived in the walls. The rats eyes even glowed red which was an awesome effect since the lighting would be darker when they were on stage so then you could for sure see where all the rats were. There was a shadow light on the curtain for when the rat king was in the scene with glowing red eyes. The shadow light was also used at the end of the play for when it showed Fritz. It was a great idea to use the back curtain for something instead of it just having it be there and not be used at all because it adds something extra.

There was a lot of background music used during the entire play. During the fighting scenes when the rats were winning the music would be more evil and suspenseful and when the toys would be winning the fighting the music would be more joyful and happy since the good people were winning. The music was very climatic during the fighting scene when the toys were being brought into the wall by the rats. As each toy was being brought into the wall the more suspenseful the music would get.

At then end of the play when the family is visiting Fritz's grave it actually snowed on the stage. It actually made it believable since there was actually a lot of snow and the actors even picked it up and threw it. The snow even covered the whole stage instead of just the one area where the actors were.

Having the toy chest on one side and the fireplace on the other side of a fixture was a great idea since they were both used during many of the scenes. Each time the scene changed it only needed to be turned around which made it very convenient and made the scene changes go faster. It was a very cool way for actors to enter and exit on stage through the fireplace or through the toy chest.

Overall The Nutcracker was a Christmas must see to get you in the mood for the holidays and to bring the family to. It got the audience into the holiday spirit.

“The Nutcracker” put on by the Renegade Theater Company was a brilliantly unique performance. The non-ballet performance was a heartwarming and comical version of the classic Nutcracker tale. With great seasonal music, immaculate acting, and a uplifting story, it would seem hard to believe if someone did not enjoy Renegade’s version of “The Nutcracker.” The play appealed to all, young, old, male, or female; and it was because of many aspects that was done so well.

The playwright’s intention for this play was exactly what was pulled off so well, a fun spin on a classic loving story. Many people think of “The Nutcracker” as a ballet and can’t imagine it any other way; I was among these people, a little skeptical hearing that it was a non-ballet version of the classic story. The play made us think of the joys of family and the holiday season, for it brings the family together. With the death of Fritz, the audience can connect that to the value of life and how there should not be one moment taken for granted.

The director gave a unique spin on the traditional Nutcracker story and it was very interesting as an audience to watch. The actors pulled this version off very well. There was still dancing and lots of music for scene changes and certain scenes. Because of this, there was still an element of music and dance. The dance was a unique way to depict the battle between the toys and Clara and the rats. The choreography during this scene was a much more elegant way or portraying this to the audience. Also, for those seeking a ballet version, they didn’t miss out completely. It was a very appropriate way of interrupting the playscript.

The actors did an excellent job of portraying the characters they were meant to. It was neat to watch as the toys came to life and acted the same way that Clara had played with them. Kier Zimmerman who played Clara was very believable. She did an excellent job in connecting with the audience and taking them with her through her journey. The monkey, played by Evan Kelly was hilarious to watch and did an excellent job making sure that the audience was able to understand him even with the accent he was talking in. Sometimes Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer, played by Zachary Stofer, was hard to understand because the accent was too thick.

The scenic design was simple, however, that allowed for the audience to focus more on the actors than an elaborate set. The costumes, especially that of the toys, were put together very nicely and helped to draw the audience’s attention. Lighting was used effectively during “The Nutcracker,” it was a great way for the audience to connect with the action onstage. For example, when a fellow solider of Fritz’s came to tell the family that Fritz had died, the stage turned blue and helped the audience feel sympathetic. The strobe lights and red lights that flooded the stage helped create an appropriate environment for a battle between the toys and Clara and the rats.

The play was very worth attending. It was a great way to kick off the holiday season. It was a fun twist on a traditional story of “The Nutcracker.” Hats off to the Renegade Theater Company.

The Nutcracker presented at the Renegade theatre took a twist from the normal concept of a whimsical ballet into a rather intense storyline depicted through exciting lighting and dance routines which brought the entire production to a whole new level.

The theatre space was smaller, but created a more intimate feel between the audience and the actors. The use of the space in which the director had the characters coming out from all directions (including the main walkway for viewers!), made the experience feel that much more life like. The tightness of the space also brought the music and lighting to an extreme, and the room just acted as a prop within the story rather than an outside element.

The lighting was phenomenal. The director of the lighting clearly knew how to use the skill of incorporating color to portray emotion very well. The use of blues during sorrow and the crazy strobes during the intense dancing formed a significant relationship between the audience and the storyline in such a passionate way. The production would not have been the same without the effectiveness of the lighting.

Clara, played by Kier Zimmerman, was by far the most notable character in the production. Her emotion was easily transferred to the audience, and she really created a believable little girl within the story. It seemed effortless, as if she wasn’t even acting the part but rather was living the experience in reality. Fritz, played by Matthew Smith, was not as successful in terms of portraying his character, especially when being in comparison to Zimmerman. Smith showed a dull, emotionless character, and the talent of all the other actors such as Zachary Stofer, Evan Kelly, and Jennie Ross easily shined over Smith in terms of talent and “believability.” The thought of what powerful emotion could have been brought with Fritz’s character is a curious thought, and what effect that could have on the production is something to consider in the future. However, the overall talent of all the additional actors was through the roof, and it was especially enjoyable with the twist of comedy brought on by Kelly (Monkey), Ross (Phoebe) and Stofer (Uncle Drosselmeyer). Their personalities made the production memorable, and helped the audience steer away from the misconstrued conception of the stereotypical ballet Nutcracker performance.

This performance was definitely a delight to attend. There were so many strong elements such as the lighting, actors, music, and use of space that brought this production together in such a successful way. Despite the lack believability brought on by Smith, the actors couldn’t of created a more real-life experience to the audience. The cohesiveness of all the components' put into this production made it memorable, and was something the viewers are sure to never forget.

It seemed that this unique and modern twist of The Nutcracker jumped right out of a fairytale book and onto the stage of the Renegade Theater. This production had humor both kids and adults could enjoy. Director Katy Helbacka did a wonderful job keeping audience members on the edge of their seats and spreading some Christmas cheer.
It was very interesting coming into the play knowing the story line was different and there wasn’t going to be any dancing, but then also not knowing what to expect. For those familiar with The Nutcracker ballet, this new telling of the story is a surprise. The opening Christmas party scene at little Clara’s (Kier Zimmerman) home is full of cheer, but the mood quickly becomes sad and depressing when her family receives news of her brother Fritz’s (Matthew Smith) death due to the war. The overriding goal of the story is quickly established when Clara’s crazy Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer (Zachary Stofer) returns to save Christmas.

The diverse set of characters is what brought this play to life. Zimmerman did a wonderful job playing the energetic and determined Clara. Stofer did an excellent job staying tuned in to his role as the crazy and magical Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer. Everything from the Uncle’s German accent to his limp made this character fascinating to watch. Little Clara’s toys brought chaos and a whole lot of crazy to the stage when they came to life and sprang from the toy chest. The sock monkey named Monkey (Evan Kelly), Hugo the robot (Cory Anderson), and Phoebe (Jennie Ross) the doll were definitely the comic relief in this story.

The lighting design, music, and special effects were very well done. The strobe lights were a fun effect during the fight scenes. It made the fight scenes even more dramatic by making it seem as if they were in slow motion. The modern take on Christmas music added to fight scenes as well by making them more exciting. The story climaxed during the last fight scene when all the rats fused together to create the Rat King. The voice coming from the horrible creature was a very good effect.

The costumes contributed a lot in the telling of this story. Zimmerman traipsed around the set in a night gown for the entire production. Her night gown and the pig tails brought out her childish character even more. Uncle Erich’s plaid paints and eye patch made him seem very quirky and mysterious. Also, it was very cool seeing how well the miniature versions of Clara’s toys matched the costumes of the real life toy characters. Then there were the rats. The rats wore black costumes, long tails, dark face makeup, and had eerie red eyes that lit up the darkness. Their creepy costumes made audience members shudder as they scurried along the stage and up and down the walkway.

It would be somewhat difficult to classify this production into a specific genre. There was singing, some dancing, lots of jokes and humor, fight scenes, and serious scenes. It was a great combo for a Christmas tale. This production is recommended to anyone looking for a fun and thrilling twist on The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker

Renegade Theater Company’s production of The Nutcracker was not the typical ballet version, none the less it was still very well executed and entertaining. The small stage and close sitting allowed the audience to see everything on stage very clearly, including the actors facial expressions and emotions. The set was both an effective use of the space and aided in the portrayal of the setting throughout the show. The fireplace/toy cabinet piece was well made, very unique and a great addition.

One of the best aspects of the show was the use of music. Since the show is typically a ballet, music would be the only ‘sound’ utilized, no dialogue, no singing, just music and dance. The incorporation of music in the play tied this new version to the original thus adding authenticity. The beginning of the show is a perfect example. The music almost overpowered the dialogue between the actors, creating a sense of joyful chaos and excitement over the holiday and really allowed the emotion to feel raw and pure. Especially when announcing Fritz’s death. The loud music along with the proximity to the stage and the actor’s reactions, the entire scene was more realistic and captured the audiences attention from the get go.

The actors in the show all did a good job portraying their characters and bringing different aspects and tones to the play. While David, played by Joshua Stenvick, and Martha, played by Kate Zehr, carried the darker parts of the play, dealing with grief and recovery, Phoebe, played by Jennie Ross, Hugo, played by Cory Anderson, and Monkey, played by Evan Kelly, carried the lighter parts of the play, dealing with friendship and christmas spirit. Both Zehr and Stenvick did excellent jobs creating realism in their characters. They showed love towards their daughter while also portraying their characters struggles with the holiday and loss of their son. Ross, Anderson, and Kelly were some of the highlights of the production. Their humor and physical comedy provided a much needed relief throughout the show, not only giving the audience a good laugh but also allowing them to really think about the more serious topics of the play by giving them a little break from the sorrow. The relationship between Clara, played by Kier Zimmerman, and Fritz, played by Matthew Smith, was warm, cheery and heart felt. They both did a beautiful job creating the brother sister bond and revealing how close they had been to each other and how hard Fritz’s death was on Clara. By far the best performance was that of Zachary Stofer who played Uncle Drosselmeyer. His accent was spot on and never wavered. He was serious when he had to be but also always full of love and whimsy. He tied the entire show together and was almost the moral compass of play.

Although the rats were more of an ensemble, they really stood out as exemplary actors and gave the show an edge that made it a much better production. They were all around creepy and nasty but in the perfect way. They never came out of character and all of their movements, small and large, were done as a rat. Even when moving the set around, they were portraying their characters. It was very clever to have the rats do this because it was something different from other shows, and it also, in a way, portrayed the fact that the rats were in the walls of the home.

One of the best executed aspects of the production was the dancing and fight scenes. They were very well choreographed and were performed impeccably. By far some of the most unique, intricate, and entertaining parts of the show.

The songs that were sung by the characters was the only confusing aspects of the. While they were all performed well, they seemed unnecessary and forced; distracting from the main themes and plot points. The production could have easily done without them and would have been more polished if they had been excluded.

Overall, it was an excellent play filled with raw emotion and christmas cheer. It reminded the audience of the importance of family and also the importance of living even when some one we love has gone. Definitely a must see this holiday season.

-Eric Gahr

This unique rendition of the ballet, The Nutcracker, was an overall success. There were many positives behind this play, yes a play, not a ballet.
First, the scene design. The scene designer did a wonderful job. Given limited space, multiple rooms/places that the scenes took place, and the need for interactive scenery, the designer did very well. There were multiple movable and reversible pieces that created easy scene changes, but extreme distinction between them. The scene changes were also fun and well done. The lights come down and the mice come out. Having the mice change the scenes did wonders for the play. It gave a sense that the mice were in control and that they were everywhere in the dark.
Lights and music were intense to say the least. No more classic orchestra Nutcracker music. No, this play brings it to a new level. They used what sounded like a full on rock band to make their music, heavy on the electric guitar. It added a cool, modern twist that was definitely unexpected. The lights were also timed great, and gave the right amount of life to each scene. Lighting wise, the fight scenes were done very well.
With some slight twists, the overall plot still came out great. It was still the timeless classic The Nutcracker, just with a few twists. First of all, it wasn't a ballet anymore, it was just a simple play. Second, the Rat King was multiple rats put together. That added for a shocking twist that may or may not have been a good one.
The costumes were a fun to look at. They fit each character well. For the uncle's "out there" personality, he gets a very unusual suit. The mother and father are dressed strictly and professionally. The daughter, not so much as to even dress herself, she's in her night gown the whole play, carefree and not afraid of people's judgement.
Now to the important stuff; acting. For the most part, the acting was very well done. The fight scenes were great, or as great as they could be for a small stage performance. The uncle and parents both played their parts satisfactorily. The daughter however, was over played. Too dramatic and not very realistic. The singing was also bad. The brother was very out of tune, and the words of his main song up in the attic made absolutely no sense. The daughter also was out of tune more than she was in tune.
Overall I would say this new rendition of The Nutcracker was a success. A few tweaks and you've got yourself a fantastic play! I would recommend this play to anyone wanting something other than a ballet on Christmas time.

The Nutcracker preformed t the Renegade Theater was a classic! The world renown ballet had a few differences when preformed at Renegade. Katy Helbacka who directed this production changed it into a musical and play. A remarkable change was the electric guitar playing during the transitions between scenes. All of the transitions were very well done keeping the audience very in tune with the play. She mostly used the rats as a transition and you would see them prancing around the stage between scenes. I was very impressed with how she used the whole theater (audience and all) as the stage. This was perfect for the holiday season.

This Holiday classic with a twist is about a young girl named Clara and her nutcracker. We start out at a Christmas party where later that day the family finds out their son Fritz died in battle. Distraught from the news the next year the family decides to not have a Christmas party at all.

A character by the name of Uncle Drosselmeyer shows up learning there is no Christmas party. The production itself really starts to pick up at this point. Drosselmeyer then proceeds to give Clara a nutcracker that looks like her brother Fritz. Clara then starts to see numerous rats and her toys jump to life. Clara and the toys are willing to fight the rats and keep their Christmas alive.

The costumes were not very typical for the original production. The characters were dressed in skintight clothing. They most resembled the look of spandex on someone. For the rats each actor had a rat like head with red eyes worn like a hate atop their heads. These red eyes would show even when the lights were out and you could see them moving up and down each time they were dancing. As for the family they wore what would be comfortable and appropriate for Christmas. The toys looked extremely toy like with their costumes. They each looked exactly like they would if they were just a doll.

The ending did have a type of snafu however. When the snow was supposed to come down little by little it ended up all coming down at once. I was surprised that each actor kept his or her composure not even breaking character for a second.

The lighting of the play was simple yet effective. The rats each had red-lit eyes that you could always see when the lights went out. This had a very eerie feel to it. There was a white back that changed colors for different rooms giving the right feel for each room.

I would have to say that this was a great holiday twist to the classic ballet. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I did not expect it to be what it was but I did love how the whole audience was the stage aswell. It kept me into the play and I loved to see each and every scene change.

The Nutcracker Brings a Joyful Holiday Spirit!
The Nutcracker Review

The classic theatrical production of The Nutcracker opened December 6, 2012 at Duluth’s Renegade Theatre. Director Katy Helbaka turned this classical story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman into her own musical and play production. Helbaka’s production couldn’t have been more heart felt and full of laughter! This was the play to see with Christmas just around the corner.
The actors were phenomenal. Especially the toys! The toys were believable because of the joy they brought to the productions. Monkey, Teddy, Hugo, and Phoebe. Mathew Smith played Money, Cory Anderson Played Hugo, Jennie Ross played Phoebe, and Andy Bennett played Teddy. With the story involving war and death, its important to have a way to get away and these toys were the happiness to the play. Clara was played by Kier Zimmerman who brought a sense of love and joy throughout the hardships of what she has been thought to the play. Uncle Drosselmeyer played by Zachary Stofer. The audience fell in love with this guy. He was hilarious. Stofer does a great jib expressing a real feeling of joy and hope in the performance especially in the stressful moments with the family. Joshua Stenvick played the father, and couldn’t have done a better job. His anger was believable and as a viewer. The actors were on stage and throughout the audience at times. This was creative and an interesting way to perform because it kept the audience engaged and really brought to life the performance.
The stage set up was creative and set up what the performance was trying to capture. There was music, dancing, and a mix of emotions, At times the stage went in to complete darkness and at these times it represented sadness and was scary with the rats running around with their red eyes. This was an effective way to capture the way the characters felt. Other times, like in the Christmas party scene, there was joy and happiness with music and dancing and that created a lighthearted moment for the audience. Lighting and music were also important in creating the right feel for these scenes. The technical effects like the strobe light was very creative and especially made the audience capture the slowness of the scene. Helbacka did a great job with creating interesting and fun scene changes. From music, running rats and dancing there was never a dull moment and kept the audience engaged. The scenes were believable and effective to get a reaction from the audience and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
I highly recommend attending Helbacka’s production of The Nutcracker before Christmas or around the holiday! This performance brings joy and laughter and kids can definitely attend! This is a great family outing to attend!

“The Nutcracker”
Attending the play “The Nutcracker” in the Renegade Theatre definitely enhanced the emotion and intimacy it put forth due to the small atmosphere. The play was more exciting than I planned on it being because there was a modernized aspect to it, as well as the musical background. I really liked the musical parts of this play as well as the choreography because it made it extremely different from the original, for example, the electric guitar used between each scene transition. The strobe lighting was a very good touch to this play because it enhanced the way the play was supposed to make you feel, as well as making it more realistic. A scene that sticks out to me that used the strobe lights was the food fight. They were a good touch because it made it look like everything was actually moving in slow motion.
The next part of the play I really enjoyed were the rats which were scurrying around in the dark with their beady red eyes being all you could see. It definitely kept me on my toes and alert as the scenes changed, and added an exciting element as the transition occurred. Hugo, monkey, Phoebe and Teddy were my favorite characters in this play because they kept the scenes very light, and brought a lot of comedy to the play, and of course because they were toys of Clara’s. I really enjoyed the monkey’s humorous accent, and hearing the excessive laughter in the crowd, I can bet they did as well. The seriousness was necessary, brought on by the father, David, because it allowed the play to appear very realistic during sad times, especially over the death of Fritz.
The direction the director Katy Helbacka took in this normally classic play was very entertaining because she added elements of humor, singing, and dancing which created a unique twist. The costumes that were presented in this play were amazing. They were all unique, especially the rat costumes which were my favorite. I think that the rat costumes caught my eye the most because of their red eyes that lit up and it enhanced the play as the lights were out. They made it so creepy, and I felt like I had to be aware of my surroundings. It also made it an awesome experience which really involved the crowd and captured the fear. I also liked how they utilized all the space in the theatre by including the aisles in the crowd.
I was very surprised by how much this play pulled me in and sparked my interest. I thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of this play and the fact that it was not like any of the other plays I have watched this semester. I did not expect this play to be creepy at all, but the rats and the rat king really portrayed the dark side in this play. Katy Helbacka truly captured the Christmas spirit in many in the audience including me through her play.

Katie Hood
December 17, 2012

Exploring alternative creativity is something Renegade Theater Company not only encourages, but thrives on. In the retelling of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker , this theater company goes off the edge in a modern and close to home, storyline.

Whether anyone is in a military position or knows a loved one in such position, this story touches every audience member at a personal and emotional level. Matthew Smith plays a convincing military personnel as well as a dedicated brother. Smith and Kier Zimmerman, Clara, show obvious brother/sister chemistry and love for one another on stage. Through battle fights with rats and personal struggles with “where Fritz will go after Christmas”, this brother and sister combo seems to have true compassion for one another.

Characters that weren’t as convincing, or perhaps didn’t have enough time on stage to portray such a mother and father role, were Kate Zehr and Joshua Stenvick. The times they did appeared on stage the story was dull and not on the level of emotion as with Smith and Zimmerman. However, Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer, Zachary Stofer, tied in all of the family members excellently. Stofer won the audiences’ hearts and laughs immediately in his monologue before the play even began. His accent being used to only ask that everyone turn off their cell phones was a hilarious way to both engage the audience with a lovable character, while preparing for an interruption free performance.

While the cast and crew engaged in a great performance, the emotion was greatly influenced with the song choice throughout the play. The rock mix of Trans-Siberian Orchestra immediately engaged the audience in all of the high tempo fight scenes. This familiar genre has been used in light shows previously, but will now always have the flashing memory of a live nutcracker and other toys fighting a rat army. The use of flashing lights to show a slow part in the music for dramatic effect of a “slow motion” fight was very powerful and well played out. Had the music been anything different, the fight scenes would have fallen short.

Although there was no live music, the sound crew made great use of the previously recorded music and allowed the actors to do the convincing. Other convincing roles were of the rats. With beady little eyes and cackling laughs, the audience was close to being afraid of even a quick scene change. By keeping the rats in costume during a scene change, the audience felt even more involved in the action of the cozy theater.

And any child, or child at heart, that see’s The Nutcracker will have lasting wishes of their own toys to come to life. The team of Evan Kelly, Cory Anderson, and Jennie Ross raised the bar on the toys being alive with their witty remarks and humor of even the smallest movement of their character in costume. As they prepared for battle, or spread out literally on the floor, you can’t help but laugh and want to consume more and more of each hilarious actor.

The Nucracker
Tim Abrahamson
Happy Holidays! This December The Nutcracker was performed by the Renegade theater. It goes without saying that this performance was an early Christmas gift to the city and people of Duluth. The leader of this production was Katy Helbacka, the performance was put on magnificently by all the supporting team members. This was an interesting way to perform The Nutcracker because it is usually performed as a ballet. The stage design was great because it really gave the audience members the Christmas time of year feel. The play was put on at the Teatro Zuccone. This was a great place for this performance to be put on because it really allowed the audience to get up close and personal with the performers who were on the proscenium stage. Although there weren’t many props on the stage throughout the play, all of them were put to multiple uses and were also used effectively. The fireplace was set on a stage wagon and was easily turned around to reveal a toy chest and a book shelf which meant that the scene had moved in to Clara’s room. This piece of scenery was also used as a mode of transportation for the actors and actresses. The toys came out of the toy chest, as well as some of the rats. However the rats primarily came out of the fire place.

The Renegade Theater did a wonderful job of casting for this performance of The Nutcracker. All of the characters were very believable and adapted their personalities to match their characters. The monkey who was played by Evan Kelly, was probably the most outspoken of all of the toys and displayed some very ape like mannerisms and movements. The robot named Hugo was played by Cory Anderson and he did a very good job at displaying jerky, machine like movements. Phoebe was played by Jennie Ross and she did a wonderful job making her doll character very believable. Many might argue that the true star of this show was Uncle Eric Drosslemeyer who was played by Zachary Stofer. Every time he seemed to talk it seemed that the audience would be rolling in the aisles. He did a wonderful job at creating his character and made himself very believable as the friendly one eyed uncle who truly believe in the magic that Clara’s parents thing is absurd. Zachary Stofer might have seemed so much more entertaining than the others because many students remember his performance as Bernard in Boeing Boeing which was much different than the character he played in this production of The Nutcracker.
Overall this was a very entertaining play. It is the perfect time of year for The Nutcracker to be put on and the Renegade Theater did a really good job of bringing this classic Christmas story to life in a truly unique way. All of the cast members were extremely entertaining and this performance is friendly to all ages. This was by far the most interesting venue that we have seen this semester. This is really something that people should go see anytime they get the chance.

The Renegade Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker was a fun holiday Christmas classic with a twist. The Nutcracker is typically a ballet that has a much different feel to it; this production was directed by Katy Helbacka changed the direction of the original theme. Katy did a wonderful job of transforming this story into a comical musical. There were many elements that brought this performance together; from the acting, character choices, costumes, stage design, and lighting.

It was fun to see a lot of the actors from different plays through the semester come together all in the same production. Katy Helbacka did a wonderful job of choosing the right cast members to play the roles for this play. A lot of the actors also participate in the theatres improv, so their hilarious personalities really shined. Some of the crowd favorites were Uncle Erich Drosselmeyer (Zachary Stofer) and the monkey (Evan Kelly).

The costumes seemed to fit the characters personalities very well. Fritz (Mathew Smith) had a military styled suit that resembled a nutcracker. Uncle Erich had on older styled slacks with very interesting facial hair. Clara (Kier Zimmerman) is dressed in a nightgown that makes her look very young; this makes it believable that she the child. When Clara’s toys come to life, they appear to be life sized. Also, the rats that helped move the stage around and had a few scenes were dressed in all black with rat heads for hats; these were very interesting and gave them an eerie feel to them.

The play took place on a small stage with only a few scene changes. There was close audience seating, which gave the production a more interactive feel to it. Lighting played a vital role for this production. The beginning scene started off with loud music and bright lights to symbolize the excitement of Fritz returning home. There was a knock on the door, but it was not Fritz. The lights went off with a dark blue light in the background; a military dressed man presented the family with the news that their son was not going to make it home. The dramatic change in lighting really pulled this scene together. Another time that the lighting was really apparent was when Clara was in her room, the lights went out and when they turned back on Fritz had come alive and was on her dresser. Also, there was a scene where the rats were running around with beady red lights on their head, the lighting was very dark but it was still slightly bright enough to see them perform on stage.

Overall, this production was a huge success. The atmosphere in the theatre was perfect for this different type of play. If you are looking for a good laugh, this is a must see! The theme really made the presence of the holidays apparent getting the audience excited for Christmas!

The Nutcracker preformed t the Renegade Theater was a classic! The world renown ballet had a few differences when preformed at Renegade. Katy Helbacka who directed this production changed it into a musical and play. A remarkable change was the electric guitar playing during the transitions between scenes. All of the transitions were very well done keeping the audience very in tune with the play. She mostly used the rats as a transition and you would see them prancing around the stage between scenes. I was very impressed with how she used the whole theater (audience and all) as the stage. This was perfect for the holiday season.
This Holiday classic with a twist is about a young girl named Clara and her nutcracker. We start out at a Christmas party where later that day the family finds out their son Fritz died in battle. Distraught from the news the next year the family decides to not have a Christmas party at all.
A character by the name of Uncle Drosselmeyer shows up learning there is no Christmas party. The production itself really starts to pick up at this point. Drosselmeyer then proceeds to give Clara a nutcracker that looks like her brother Fritz. Clara then starts to see numerous rats and her toys jump to life. Clara and the toys are willing to fight the rats and keep their Christmas alive.
The costumes were not very typical for the original production. The characters were dressed in skintight clothing. They most resembled the look of spandex on someone. For the rats each actor had a rat like head with red eyes worn like a hate atop their heads. These red eyes would show even when the lights were out and you could see them moving up and down each time they were dancing. As for the family they wore what would be comfortable and appropriate for Christmas. The toys looked extremely toy like with their costumes. They each looked exactly like they would if they were just a doll.
The ending did have a type of snafu however. When the snow was supposed to come down little by little it ended up all coming down at once. I was surprised that each actor kept his or her composure not even breaking character for a second.

The lighting of the play was simple yet effective. The rats each had red-lit eyes that you could always see when the lights went out. This had a very eerie feel to it. There was a white back that changed colors for different rooms giving the right feel for each room.
I would have to say that this was a great holiday twist to the classic ballet. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I did not expect it to be what it was but I did love how the whole audience was the stage aswell. It kept me into the play and I loved to see each and every scene change.

Kaitlyn Hukriede
12/18/12
The Nutcracker


The Renegade Theatre Company is presenting The Nutcracker this holiday season to the city of Duluth, with a new spin on the original classic. Directed by Katy Helbacka, this telltale play took a unique twist in a comical aspect. As typically shown, The Nutcracker is best known as one of the worlds most popular ballets, this rendition switched up the plotline into musical form. A modern vibe was portrayed as the production incorporated rock music and new age choreography. This broadened the audience age range making a production that is entertaining for the whole family. While this production reshaped all previous ideas about the classic play, the same storyline played out framing the idea of saving and cherishing Christmas. This is important to still bring in an audience with a love for the original play, but an audience you can still surprise with a storyline twist. Anyone can see the original Nutcracker anywhere around Christmas time, but this production is a unique chance to see something new and refreshing right in our own backyard of Duluth.

The entire Nutcracker crew worked hard to make their rendition believable to audience members, as well as creating a successful spin off play. This was done through extremely creative and unique uses of lighting and set design. The lighting helped draw and keep in the audience’s attention. The use of a full set light in one color, as well as other lighting effects such as strobe lights and glowing rat eyes. This created a necessary variety, which shared the emotion of the scene with the audience, blue for sadness or red for fear. The stage and set design was intricately created to “reuse” each and every prop. The props would spin around to enact a whole new scene for the characters acting on stage. For example, the fireplace used in the living room would spin around to reveal a bookshelf and toy chest in the child’s room. Not only did this create convenience for the fluidity of the production but also made an eye appealing visual for the audience. This also helped keep the focus on the actors, rather than the set, by playing on sharing the stage space. The use of stage space was vital when working with a smaller stage, which prevents the original ideas of The Nutcracker to be produced, such as primarily ballet scenes…although the size of the staging just created more intimacy with the story and audience members.

This play is definitely a production worth attending this holiday season with any friend or family member. You will be reminded of the true meaning of the holidays and the things that are most important to celebrating them. Not many theatre companies take on the daunting task of reinventing a classic play, but the Renegade Company did an extremely successful job in doing so, yet still incorporating the ideas and emotions of the original. Even to avid Nutcracker fans, this play will leave you happy as it warms your heart for the cold Duluth winter and the holidays to follow.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on December 7, 2012 12:12 PM.

Diggity Dog Days - The Play Ground was the previous entry in this blog.

No Exit - UMD Stage 2 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.