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    The Dance-Along Nutcracker is Back!

    By Doug Litwin–

    After a 3-year absence due to COVID, the beloved, only-in-San Francisco Dance-Along Nutcracker® will return live and in-person on December 17 & 18. The community will gather once again for four shows at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts featuring two shows each day.

    Each year, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB)—the Official Band of San Francisco—blends Tchaikovsky’s classic The Nutcracker ballet with a new entertaining theme and storyline. The result is a fun-filled original musical production brimming with wit, artistry, and ingenuity. When the “Dance Along!” sign flashes, the audience is invited to get out of their seats and sashay around the theater. Even audience members who don’t want to dance have a blast!

    This year’s show, SNOWBOUND, sees the audience invited to the Stahlbaum family’s home for their traditional Christmas Eve party. But a freak polar vortex brings a huge snowstorm to the Bay Area, closing the streets and stranding the guests, and the audience, inside!

    What is the Dance-Along Nutcracker?

    Although the Dance-Along Nutcracker has been around since 1985, many first-timers discover it every year. Even those who’ve attended the show many times come back since no two shows are the same. In past years, the show has mashed-up the traditional Nutcracker story with such themes as: superheroes, pirates, summer of love, outer space, cowboys, Hollywood, The Wizard of Oz, fairytales, Frosty the Snowman (in Hawaii, no less), The Polar Express, I Love Lucy, and more.

    The event website features a gallery of program covers spanning all the way back to 1985, showcasing the evolution of the show over the past 37 years. For more than ten years, the creative mind behind many of those wacky themes was band member and former San Francisco Bay Times columnist Heidi Beeler. More recently, Heidi has passed the Sugar Plum Fairy Wand onto a team of other Band members, showcasing the deep talent that exists within this group.

    Celebrating the Return to In-Person Events

    After the success of the 2019 show Nutcrackers in Space, planning immediately started for 2020. Unsurprisingly, an in-person Dance-Along Nutcracker was shelved, but the Band still wanted to provide some in-person holiday cheer, so they created a virtual Dance-Along Nutcracker. The show featured Clara and Fritz traveling through time, visiting destinations from Dance-Along Nutcrackers past, thanks to archival footage woven in with new musical performances from several partner groups, including a sing-along with the San Francisco Bay Times carolers!

    The Band looked to 2021 as the grand return of an in-person Dance-Along Nutcracker. “SNOWBOUND was originally written to be the 2021 Dance-Along Nutcracker,” said Brandon Moss, writer of the 2022 show and President of SFLGFB. “Unfortunately, it took another year for us to be able to return in person. So, I’m extremely excited to finally get the opportunity to again celebrate the holidays with the San Francisco community in our favorite way—by dancing along together!”

    Fun for Young & Young at Heart

    When the Dance-Along Nutcracker first started, it was a way for the adult LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco to let their hair down, release their inner child, and enjoy The Nutcracker as never before by joining in the dancing. For a community being ravaged by AIDS, this show was the perfect antidote in a very dark time in San Francisco.

    By the mid-1990s, a strange thing happened: more and more children were appearing in the audience, led by parents of all persuasions and gender identities. Noting the evolution of the Dance-Along Nutcracker audience, the Band pivoted to offering more daytime shows and crafting the storylines and the jokes to appeal to all audiences. Nowadays, the audiences are an exciting mix of children dragging their parents onto the floor and adult couples and singles twirling under the mirrored ball. After all, where else can anyone enjoy The Nutcracker and be a part of the show instead of having to sit passively and watch for two hours?

    Great Artistic Minds Behind the Show

    Dance-Along Nutcracker 2022: SNOWBOUND is under the leadership of Artistic Director Pete Nowlen and Cast Director Allen Sawyer. Said Nowlen, “This will be my 9th year directing this show and I’m really excited about the SNOWBOUND theme. Having grown up and lived in Montana and Chicago, I know all about snow. I’m so glad that in this show, the blizzard that hits San Francisco is confined to what’s in the script!”

    Allen Sawyer, who also works at the San Francisco Opera House, observed, “I’ve seen kids grow out of the traditional Nutcracker. Because we’re always changing our themes and additional music, audiences keep coming back year after year to see what’s new. Folks who were brought to the Dance-Along Nutcracker when they were children are now bringing their own kids!”

    25 Years of Support from the San Francisco Bay Times

    The 2022 Dance-Along Nutcracker marks a real milestone: the 25-year relationship between the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band and the San Francisco Bay Times & “Betty’s List.” Since 1997, Betty Sullivan and her associates have been stalwart supporters of this annual show, providing more than $100,000 in media and promotional support. Needless to say, the Band cherishes this long-term relationship. Thank you so much, Betty!

    Don’t Miss the Show. Get Tickets Now!

    Be there at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on December 17 and 18 for the Dance-Along Nutcracker 2022. It will be a blizzard of a good time! To get into the spirit of the show, audiences are encouraged to wear their gaudiest Christmas sweater or their warmest pajamas. They’ll fit right in!

    The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band presents Dance-Along Nutcracker® 2022: SNOWBOUND

    Saturday, December 17, 3 pm and 7 pm
    Sunday, December 18, 11 am and 3 pm

    Place: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts—Forum
    701 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103

    Tickets start at $25 for children/students & seniors and $40 for adults. Individual sponsor packages are also available.

    Information & tickets:

    Doug Litwin is a long-time volunteer musician and Board member in the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band and has the distinction of performing in every “Dance-Along Nutcracker” since the show premiered in 1985.

    Arts & Entertainment
    Published on December 1, 2022