After 50 years of doing drama—backstage, onstage, directing and writing—I feel I have a certain credibility in reviewing productions. Saturday night last, the Sandia Preparatory School presented, “The Nutcracker.” It involved 76 students, 10 parents and tons of volunteers who worked on sets, costumes and make up.

It was held at the McCall Family Theater. And you thought they only grew pumpkins at the McCall’s. Thanks to such generous angels, as we call them in the drama business, we were delighted with the facility. To sit in comfortable seats, watching a full-fledged production that equaled any I have seen at Popejoy, was pure ecstasy. The lights, sound, costumes and most of all the dancing performance were incredible. The grades of these actors were 8th grade to high school seniors.

Two of the most dedicated people involved in this production were Louis and Courtney Giannini, who did the choreography, coaching and directing.

Miracles are expected at this time of year, and we watched an actual miracle of a production. I have seen many of their shows, “Mary Poppins,” “Legally Blonde” and “Singing in the Rain.” These were all excellent, but attempting a ballet, a world-famous ballet, is unthinkable and yet I was there; it came off without a hitch.

Two of my granddaughters were in it, Caitlin White was a Russian and a Snow Dancer and her younger sister, Victoria White, was both a Mean Girl and an Angel. I leave that discussion for another time. If they hadn’t been in it, it would have still been well worth the ticket. There are a lot of talented members in that company.

Most of the music was taped, however, the Sandia Prep Orchestra came and played in the second act for two numbers for the dancers. This is almost unthinkable since dancers and orchestra sometimes have trouble deciding who leads. They both did. It was perfect. And if you have ever seen “The Nutcracker,” you know they have dancing from Arabia, Spain, China, Merlitons, Russian and end with the Waltz of the Flowers. Well, let me tell you in this production we also had India and a rousing number from Bollywood. The saris flowed and ebbed just like the tide, both beautiful and predictable. Tchaikovsky would have really approved this rendition.

The students, the major and minor dancers, and the audience were won over. Take that Russian ballet. We’ve got Sandia Bollywood Prep and you don’t. You can add to a perfect ballet and it becomes magnificent. Oh, and Jeopardy has a Nutcracker question on it tonight.

No matter how beautiful a facility is when hosting a play, the real magic in live theater is the play itself. Any ground you stand on is your stage, any words you speak, memorized or made up on the spot, are for your audience. The universe depends on a company of players. Without them, what a dull life we would have!

This coming weekend, the Estancia Valley Classical Academy has a unique version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” A small class with a lot of ambition, they each play more than one role. They have no stage, no curtains, no big wardrobe, but they have the only thing they need, GUTS—or determination, if you will. Under the leadership of Mrs. Bonnie Beukelman, this class is not only entertaining the school on Dec. 14 in the gym; they are performing for the Edgewood Beehive and the Four Hills Beehive audience on the Dec. 11.

In our business we say, “Break a leg.” You must earn your way into the field of acting. The more parts you play, the better accepted you become. You can work backstage or onstage, but most people would rather hide under their beds than make a speech. This is for the proud, brave, new kids to drama, I salute you. Roaring Mouse, buying tickets for your Oscars night, out.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]