Dancenter North of Libertyville is preparing once again to bring "The Magic of the Nutcracker" to Lake County.
The longest-running Nutcracker performance in the area, this year's production will feature about 100 performers that will include gymnasts and professional guest artists.
The production will include performances at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9 in Libertyville High School's Butler Auditorium, with tickets available in person at Dancenter North or by phone at (847) 367-7970. Performances will also be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16 at the Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St. Waukegan. Tickets for those shows are available at the Genesee Theatre Box Office or through Ticketmaster, both online and by phone at (800) 982-2787.
This will be the second year that Dancenter North's production will feature a special storybook version, "Clara's Dream," that will be held at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 8 at Libertyville High School.
"It's a labor of love," said Molly Rosen, a spokesman for Dancenter North. "We're really proud of it. It's a holiday tradition for so many people in the area."
This year will mark the organization's 24th production of "The Magic of the Nutcracker," with young dancers from all over Lake County. Lindsey Ray of Vernon Hills will play Clara. According to Ray's bio in the program for this year's production, she is a sophomore at Vernon Hills High School who has been dancing for 12 years.
Rosen said there are lots of returning visitors each year "because they don't know what to expect. There's a different Clara, a different guest artist."
Libertyville resident Nikki Lazzaretto played the role of Clara in Dancenter North's first production of "The Magic of the Nutcracker" and said it has changed a lot over the years.
"It was a very simple, plain 'Nutcracker,'" she said of that first production. "Everything was scaled down. We didn't even have a finale."
"It has really evolved," she added.
But the basics remain the same.
"The Russian dance is so high-energy, and people clap along and know what to expect from that," said Rosen.
Lazzaretto is thrilled to see that "The Magic of the Nutcracker" has become such a family favorite.
"It's so colorful and kid-friendly," said Lazzaretto, who is a coach for the Lake Forest High School dance team. "It turns into a family tradition."
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Is this a holiday tradition for your family? What do you enjoy most about the production?