The Claras may come and go, but Brad and Sonya Blanchard stay the same.
Ask any fan of the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s annual holiday production, The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou. Regular audience members will recognize the Blanchards as Clara’s parents.
That’s how it’s been the last four years. And they’ll once again step into the roles for four performances on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, as the company joins the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra in staging the production at the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for Performing Arts.
A production that still amazes Brad Blanchard.
His role as Clara’s dad is the result of an evolution, one that began as a college student in 1995. Brad Blanchard was an audience member at the time, and he knew he would have to be a part of it.
“I was so excited,” he said. “The show was amazing. I’m still amazed by it. It has to be the biggest, most professional production that’s staged in Baton Rouge. And it’s beautiful.”
Brad Blanchard has worked with numerous productions in the Baton Rouge area, specifically those at Baton Rouge Little Theater, where he has choreographed many of its musicals. The little theater also is where he met his wife, Sonya Blanchard. She also choreographs for local theater companies.
And it was Brad Blanchard who introduced Sonya Blanchard to The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou.
“She was amazed by it, too,” Brad Blanchard said. “And she knew she had to be a part of it.”
That was a few years after Brad Blanchard had landed his first role in the production.
“I was the Nutcracker,” he said.
Could he say that again?
“My first role in the production was the Nutcracker,” he said.
He can’t help laughing. That was a long time ago. Or it seems that way, anyway.
“Sonya and I still have a chance to dance in the party scene,” Brad Blanchard said. “We were cast as party guests for a while, and we each danced with different partners. But now we dance together.”
Meanwhile, their real-life daughter and son, Molly and Beau, also will be dancing. But not together.
Molly Blanchard is 11, and this year she steps into the role of a mouse.
“She was a cherub the first year and a lamb the second,” Brad Blanchard said. “She’s a performer, and she loves to be in front of people. But Beau doesn’t like to be on stage as much.”
Beau Blanchard is 8, and he will be making his Nutcracker debut this year.
“He’ll be a page,” Brad Blanchard said. “He’s more comfortable with The Nutcracker, because he grew up around it. Sonya and I have pictures of Molly and Beau as newborns, and they were taken at The Nutcracker.”
So, having grown up watching rehearsals, Beau Blanchard decided he, too, wanted to be in the production.
“Both of our children know the scenes and music,” Brad Blanchard said. “And it was always kind of funny walking into a store at Christmas, hearing the music and having your 2- or 3-year-old son saying, ‘That’s Nutcracker music.’”
And Molly and Beau Blanchard have been rehearsing to Nutcracker music from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays during the fall, while their parents rehearse from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“So, they spend four hours at the ballet theater every Sunday,” Brad Blanchard said.
Now, of course, the Blanchards aren’t the only people on stage. More than 300 performers make up the cast of The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou, including the Boston Ballet’s Corina Gill as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Carlos Molina as her Cavalier.
Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s pre-professional corps and soloists also will perform in this Louisiana-themed show created by the company’s artistic directors Molly Buchmann and Sharon Mathews.
“This is the one chance we have each year to see so many Baton Rouge artists combined with world-class guest artists working together to bring joy to Baton Rouge audiences,” Buchmann said. “When you consider the talented guest and local dancers, the Baton Rouge Symphony musicians, the River Center crew, and our brilliant designers, you see that there are literally hundreds of artists creating this Christmas present for Baton Rouge. It’s theater on a grand scale presented with love.”
Brad Blanchard sums it up in one word.
“Amazing,” he said.
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