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    Captain Nutcracker Brings Fantastic to Dance-Along Nutcracker®!


    By Heidi Beeler

    Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a parasailing ballerina? No! It’s Captain Nutcracker—with his caped sidekick, Clara!

    For its 2016 Dance-Along Nutcracker: The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Nutcracker!, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band takes its inspiration from comic book superhero stories. The ballet’s enchanted prince is transformed into the chisel-chinned hero, Captain Nutcracker. Rather than battling rats under the tree, he and Clara follow the trail of the nefarious Doctor Ratopolis, who leads the tinseled twosome on a holiday crime spree.

    What exactly is a Dance-Along Nutcracker (DAN)? Inspired by the Sing-It-Yourself Messiah, the DAN is all about getting the audience into the act. Think mosh-pit with fairy wands and ballet music, and you’ve got the general idea. Since the Freedom Band’s first DAN in 1985, Sugar Plum wannabes have tied on tutus and leapt onto the dance floor while the Freedom Band performs Nutcracker greatest hits like “Waltz of the Flowers” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Most of the audience jumps into the fray, though wallflowers are welcome to watch from their seats too.

    Because only the suite portion of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet (the fairyland dances we all know from Fantasia) is arranged for concert band, the show is rounded out with music on a theme. In between Dance-Along segments, actors and dancers tell Clara’s story, and sing and dance in feature numbers so the audience can catch its breath and enjoy some spectacle.




    This year’s cast includes some familiar and some new faces among the ensemble. All are Bay Area performers who have worked with Cast Director Flynn DeMarco, directing his fourth DAN. DeMarco, who heads the cast himself this year as Captain Nutcracker, most recently appeared as Giles in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Live!” and has appeared in many Thrillpeddlers productions. Clara is played by Tina Sogliuzzo (aka Ruby Vixen), who appeared in previous DAN productions as Queen Rattannia and Ozma. Her credits include performing and emceeing with Red Hots Burlesque, The Diamond Daggers, Macabaret, Hubba Hubba Review, Baxtalo Drom and Little Minsky’s.

    Choreographer Marilynn Fowler, who first choreographed last year’s The Nutcracker of Oz, returns to choreograph and also plays Moonshadow, the head of the Rainbow League of Heroes. Fowler has worked with the Sick & Twisted Players, the Tuck & Roll Players, Artfull Circle Theatre, the One Act Theatre Company and the Thrillpeddlers.

    Dee Nathaniel, who plays Fritz, is also a veteran of Ham Pants Productions, and will be featured in the new Thrillpeddlers’ musical “Amazon Apocalypse.” Drew Todd, who plays Doctor Ratopolis, most recently appeared in the Oasis’ Stalemagnolias with Fowler. Rounding out the cast as rat minions and superhero extras are members of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco.

    “It’s nice to work with people [you know] that way, because there is a trust there and a familiar family feeling,” DeMarco said.

    Of course, the DAN is at its core the holiday performance of the Freedom Band, and conducted by Artistic Director Pete Nowlen, music is its own major design element. This year’s theme allowed Nowlen to combine music from classic superhero themes from both television and film. John Williams’ Superman, the Batman TV Theme, Captain America March and Pixar’s The Incredibles all take a spin on the DAN jukebox. Nowlen adds some classical superhero fare with Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. You’ll also hear dashes of Tchaikovsky mixed in with the superhero anthems.

    “I love the challenge of mashing together the music from different sources,” Nowlen said. “I just love creating a show! It is a more creative endeavor than executing a concert or a show from pre-existing material.”

    This year the audience has the opportunity not only to dance with the Freedom Band, but also to sing with it for a sing-along number as well. The opportunity to sing with the complex sound of a large wind ensemble is one of the perks that keeps DeMarco and his cast coming back, although this show only runs for a single weekend each year.

    “It’s a thrill to get to sing in the beautiful Yerba Buena Center and being backed up by such a huge band,” DeMarco said. “And seeing how excited the kids and even adults get by the shows and the ability to participate makes it all worth it!”

    The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Nutcracker runs Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (

    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 or