By Heidi Beeler
Next weekend, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band whisks Sugar Plum wannabes away for a tropical island vacation for its 2014 Dance-Along Nutcracker®: Frosty’s Hawaiian Holiday. The island getaway takes place next Saturday and Sunday, December 13–14.
Conducted by Artistic Director Pete Nowlen, the Dance-Along Nutcracker is the Freedom Band’s annual DIY holiday bash. Since 1985, costumed audiences have stormed the dance floor of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for this Bay Area holiday lollapaloooza, making it a contender for first flashmob in history. Imagine a mosh-pit with tutus, fairy wands and ballet music, and you’ve got the picture. Anyone with a yen for a good plié can strap on a tutu from the Tutus R Us Boutique in the back and leap onto the dance floor while the Band performs Nutcracker faves like “Waltz of the Flowers,” “Russian Trepak” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”
Only the “Suite” portion of Tchaikovsky’s ballet (the fairyland dances prominent in Fantasia) is arranged for concert band. So the show is rounded out each year with music on a theme. In between dance-along numbers, actors and dancers tell the story, sing a song or dance in cast feature numbers.
Created by June Bonacich, this year’s show goes all Don Ho-ho-ho with a mashup of holiday and Hawaiian-themed music like “Aloha Oe Waltz,” “Mele Kalikimaka” and the “Hawaiian War Chant.” The Merry Ukuladies, a trio performing in the Bay Area since 2007, add the strum of ukuleles to the musical mix. When Frosty breaks out of an enchanted gift, the snow-white sands turn snowy, and Clara and Fritz have to think fast to restore the tropical climate.
The production features both new and familiar Dance-Along faces. Flynn DeMarco directs the cast and plays Father Stahlbaum in this year’s show. DeMarco first joined the Dance-Along Nutcracker for 2011’s Clara’s Magical Mystery Tour! and directed last year’s Nutcrackers of the Caribbean. He recently won a Best of Theater Bay Area Award for costume design for the Thrillpeddlers’ Pearls Over Shanghai and has performed in productions at San Francisco theaters like Theatre Rhino, Artful Circle Theatre and the Hypnodrome.
Joe Wicht (aka Trauma Flintstone) is back this year to play the role of Uncle Drosselmeyer. Wicht has been a Dance-Along Nutcracker institution since he sang “Hannukkah in Santa Monica” in 1999. Wicht is a prominent figure in the local cabaret scene, tickling the ivories for what’s billed as the Last Piano Bar at Martuni’s, and co-producing the Cabaret Showcase Showdown with Katya Smirnoff-Skyy.
Carolyn Carvajal, veteran of the San Francisco Opera Ballet, has choreographed many of the DAN’s most memorable moments, including the Swan Lake Hershey’s Kisses. She’s back with her dancers, providing dance numbers like the Holiday Airport Pas De Deux and Frosty’s Hawaiian Tap Dance.
New to the show this year are 2014 Best of Theater Bay Area winner Noah Haydon, playing Fritz Stahlbaum, and Zelda Koznofski, playing Clara. Kathy Hennig, a long-time member of the clarinet section, plays Mrs. Stahlbaum. Also joining the cast are Kelly Collins and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco.
The Saturday evening Gala goes tropical with a pre-show cocktail reception, holiday nosh and classic Hawaiian music performed by White Ginger Lei, featuring interpretations of beloved songs by artists such as Bing Crosby, Elvis, Keola & Kapona Beamer and Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole. They even travel with dancer Christiana Maffei performing traditional hula interpretations.
So pull out your grass skirt, your lei necklace and your toe shoes! You’ll have a tropical time!
Trumpet player Heidi Beeler has been a member of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band since 1991. She is also a founding member of the Dixieland Dykes +3. For more information, please visit www.sflgfb.org or www.facebook.com/sflgfb