A Decade for Nutcracker Performers

In 2009, Neglia Ballet Artists presented their first production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. This year will mark the 10th Anniversary performance (but first time in December) and with it comes a cohort of stage veterans who have performed at Shea’s every year. That’s serious dedication to tradition.

10 Years Going Strong

For some like Suzanne Evans, her roles have been steady: Grandma Stahlbaum (below) in the opening party scene, and the endearing Mother Ginger (above) presiding over the Land of Sweets. With her gigantic confectionery gown and cotton candy hair, Mother Ginger delights everyone.

“Performing in Neglia’s Nutcracker is a dazzling experience each and every time. What always strikes me the most is the respect, support, and appreciation all of us have for each other, no matter how old or how young. My roles have stayed the same, but I get to enhance them each year, which is a real artistic treat. This show is a true gift from the Neglias to our community, as it demonstrates their extraordinary ballet training and artistic vision through a gorgeous production!” ~Suzanne Evans

Grandma’s better half, Grandpa Stahlbaum, (above) has been most often played by Paul Mockovack. In 2017 Paul stepped up at the last minute to don the mysterious cape of Drosselmeyer (below) which he’s thrilled to do again this December.


“That the ten-year anniversary of Neglia Ballet Artists NUTCRACKER has arrived is a testimonial to the level of work that they bring to the Buffalo Dance scene. For my part I have participated as Grandpa, and Drosselmeyer and each time it is the perfect storm of world class artistic standards in telling the classic story of the Nutcracker, superior design/production elements, the fantastic BPO bringing Tchaikovsky’s music to life, but all within a professional, yet collegial and warm atmosphere. It’s an honor to return and a greater pleasure to sense the rapt engagement of the audiences in our own stunning Shea’s Theatre.” ~ Paul Mockovack

Current Neglia Pre-Professional and high school student Lara DeBoy started as an Angel (above) back in 2009 when she was just 8 years old. Since then she has had ever increasingly demanding roles: from Soldier and Cupcake to Snowflake (above 2017) and Flower. Essentially throughout her elementary, middle and high school years she hadn’t known a Thanksgiving without a Nutcracker.

“Being in the Nutcracker for 10 years has been an amazing experience. Since this is my last year, I’m proud to say that I have held many roles from Angel to Flower. Over the years I have had the advantage of working with Sergio and Heidi, and becoming stronger and more confident. I am thankful for my experiences dancing in the Nutcracker and am looking forward to spending this year dancing with my friends before I graduate.” ~Lara DeBoy

From Mouse to Marie, Adrien Malof is another current Neglia Pre-Professional high school student who has blossomed during a decade of Nutcrackers. Over the years she’s been everything including a Lead Cupcake and Snowflake. Since 2017 she has the lead role of Marie (above).

Helena Reading performed varied roles from Cupcake to Columbine Doll (above) to Mirliton during her 8 years as a Conservatory student and has returned from Santa Barbara to be a Rat for the past 2 years.

Marie Keil McPhail started as a Rat, Snowflake (above) and Flower in 2009 while attending Neglia Conservatory of Ballet. After graduating and becoming a Neglia instructor, she’s continued to perform annually in roles which included Spanish (above), Snowflake, Flower and Doll. Even with her new married life across country she still comes home to Buffalo to dance in the Nutcracker.

Though the likeness of Michele Costa is never spotted on stage, her presence and outstanding work is apparent. For ten years Michele has been responsible for the clever puppetry when Drosselmeyer opens the enchanted magic box (above). Michele is also the creator of the original horses in the battle scene. Along with Roger Schroeder, the pair has been redesigning set pieces for some of the Snow and Battle scenes to be revealed in this year’s production.

A special thank you to Gene Witkowski who has photographed every year of Nutcracker rehearsals. He’s created lasting memories for all of us.

9 Years and Counting

We’d be remiss not to mention those who missed just 1 year during the decade of Nutcrackers…

Angela Hastings – an instructor at the Conservatory has enjoyed being a perennial Party Adult (above, on left) since 2009.

Brian Pagkos has demonstrated range as the conservative Herr Stahlbaum (above top) – father to Marie and Fritz, and the ruthless Rat King (above).

All of these dedicated performers will be returning this December for our special 10th Anniversary performance of the Nutcracker at Shea’s, Dec 22 & 23. Come join the magical tradition.


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