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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

The Nutcracker Celebrates 32 years!

For over a century, audiences have delighted in the music, dance, and drama that is The Nutcracker. This year marks the 32nd annual presentation of the beloved holiday tradition performed by Ashland Regional Ballet (ARB). The dancers will take the stage at Ashland’s Archer Auditorium, on the campus of Ashland High School, on Saturday, December 16th at 2:00pm & 7:30pm; and Sunday, December 17th at 2:00pm. Tickets are available at


The full cast boasts 104 dancers from the Ashland/Mansfield area and surrounding counties. Principal roles will be danced by members of Ashland Regional Ballet with the role of Clara being portrayed by Megan Harrigan of Ashland. Guest dancer, Lex Zorich, will dance the role of Clara’s Nutcracker Prince. Professional dancers, Christina Lindhout and Brian Murphy will reprise their roles as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.


Ashland Regional Ballet members in other principal roles are Adley Grabowski as Snow Queen, Skylynn Heichel and Sami Crist as Tea duet, and Adra Herod as Trepak. Tara Tavallaee will perform the role of Flower Queen with Lyla Metzger and Lucy Ronk as her Flower Attendants.

Valerie Raubenolt will take on the role of Spanish, Audrey Smith as Arabian, and Teagan Kime will portray the Candy Cane Queen.


Other ARB company members to appear include Sami Crist, Mary Hamilton, Asher Robbins, Jordyn Thomas, Madelyn Shenberger, and ARB alumna Mikayla Jarvis.


Theatre professional, Jeff Haffner will rejoin the cast this year as Herr Drosselmeyer while Dr. Bruce Sliney and ARB alumna, Jackie Zorich, will return to their roles as Dr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum, with Asher Robbins of Ashland as Fritz. Opus II Dance Studio Director, Ann Marie Benshoff-Todd, will portray Nanny and Artistic Director, Sarah Cyders, will appear as Grandma Stahlbaum. Dr. John Moser of Ashland will narrate the beloved ballet and ARB Alumni Mark Koehler will portray The Rat King. Sydney Box and Alyssa Obertanec will reprise their roles as adults in the Party scene.


In addition to the wonderful dancing by Ashland Regional Ballet company members, the production is supported by an exceptionally strong cast comprised of Opus II Dance Studio students who bring excitement and energy to this timeless classic.


The production features original choreography by ARB Founder/Executive Director Hellie Schussler, staged by Sarah Cyders and Ann Marie Benshoff-Todd. Lighting design is by Don Pontious and set design by Robbie Keplar. Costumes by Margaret Minick-Blake, Kepler, Loree Ronk, and Donna Benshoff.


Founder and Executive Director, Hellie Schussler notes, “Each Nutcracker season brings new joys and challenges. In 1992, on the 100th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's holiday favorite, ARB presented its first production of the full-length ballet and has performed it annually ever since. It seems impossible that we are now celebrating our 32nd Nutcracker season. The Nutcracker has become a tradition for our dancers, as well as for many families in our area. We look forward to seeing new faces in the time-honored and familiar roles, as well as the joy of watching our artists grow from year to year in roles they have come to love. This production of The Nutcracker feels like coming home for Christmas. We invite you to come home to the Ashland Regional Ballet Nutcracker.”


1 Comment

Dec 09, 2023

Nice! The Tea Duet is Skylynn Heichel and Samantha Metz. 🩰♥️

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