By SIERRA ESQUEDA, Backstage SoCal correspondent
The American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School presents their annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Dec. 14-23, featuring 40 students from their local school. The young dancers will perform alongside the world renowned ABT company.
Lani Mefford, from Huntington Beach, is cast as the lead role of “Clara” and Chase Rogers, from Ladera Ranch, is cast in the lead role as “Nutcracker Prince.” Mefford and Rogers have both performed with the ABT school for four years.
Mefford who was once an understudy for the role of Clara, redeems herself as she made her way up the ballet hierarchy to perform as a principle for the role of Clara. When she first found out she was cast as Clara, she said she was “overjoyed” and that her dreams had come true.
“I love being on stage because it brings in my inner self and my personality,” said Mefford. She added she feels like she is able to portray her real self when on stage.
Rogers, who has played the role of “Nutcracker Prince” once before, is now determined to better his performance.
“Playing [the Nutcracker Prince] again feels good because I really get to perfect it all this time, like add more detail and make it more magical for the audience,” said Rogers.
Although both students are not principles in the same cast — there are two different casts in the Segerstrom Center production — they both agreed that the scene “Snow” is one of their favorite acts.
“There is so much interaction between the Nutcracker and Clara, and I love interacting on stage,” Mefford said, when explaining why this scene is her favorite from the production. Rogers describes the scene Snow as “magical and inspiring.”
Mefford said the acting rehearsals that are set aside from their normal ballet rehearsals with ABT helps her get into character. Rogers adds that the male strengthening classes ABT provides also help him to portray a stiff body, as if he really is the Nutcracker Prince.
Both students stated they are grateful to experience the exposure these shows provide, so when they further in their ballet career, they will know what to expect when performing on stage.
AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE: THE NUTCRACKER
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky; Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky; Music performed live by Pacific Symphony
When: December 14 – 23, 2018; Wednesday – Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Tickets – Start at $29
Phone – 714-556-2787