The holidays are just around the corner, and for 27 years, Hilton Head Dance Theatre has done its part to help the Lowcountry get in the Christmas spirit.
Opening night for the theater's annual production of "The Nutcracker" is Friday at Hilton Head Island High School's Visual and Performing Arts Center.
With a storyline based on a tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, and with the instantly recognizable music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, "The Nutcracker" is synonymous with the holidays.
Robert Eberly, a former dancer with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, returns in his role as Herr Drosselmeyer, the mysterious godfather to young Marie and her brother, Fritz.
This year, that role has special meaning. Hayden Garniewicz, one of the three young ladies sharing the role of Fritz, is his niece. And she will be wearing the same costume he wore as a party boy when he was her age.
Cast in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Eileen Cooper will dance with guest artist Andrew Murphy, a former principal dancer with the Houston Ballet. Featured in the iconic Waltz of the Flowers will be Flower Soloists Lilli Serral and Sarah O'Grady and Dew Drop Fairy Cady Roberts. The role of the Snow Queen will be shared by Catherine Walsh and Abby Stinson and the role of the Snow King will be preformed by Malachi Squires, formerly with Texas Ballet Theatre, and Matthew Prescott, formerly with the Joffrey Ballet. Taking on additional roles this year is returning guest artist Jamal Edwards adding Soldier Doll, Marzipan and Flower Soloist to his key role as the Mouse King. Also returning is Brian White as the Harlequin Doll and lead Candy Cane.
"It's so much fun to revisit something that is so traditional and then add some surprises," said Karena Brock-Carlyle, who is artistic director with her husband, John. "This year's production will include quite a bit of brand new choreography -- completely new and original pieces."