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Hooked: Writer returns to 'The Nutcracker'

by jmaloni
Fri, Dec 9th 2011 05:30 pm
Laura Scarfone (left) and Vanessa Cipolla give me the hook. (photo by Kevin and Dawn Cobello)
Laura Scarfone (left) and Vanessa Cipolla give me the hook. (photo by Kevin and Dawn Cobello)

by Joshua Maloni

AKA Father 4 of 6

It's not a "Nutcracker" party unless my pretend wife and I spontaneously break out into dance, are mysteriously frozen in time, and leave with five or six children (ours or others; we're not picky).

For the third year in a row, I am participating in the Greater Niagara Ballet Company's production of "The Nutcracker." As in years past, I am one of the tuxedoed fathers at the party scene, which leads into a night of magic and mystery for Clara (Madison Avery/Victoria Wagner).

My presence in Act 1 is something of a stretch, as I'm not yet a parent, I have no formal dance or acting experience (or training, unless you count high school macarenas), and I rarely dress in such fancy duds.

And yet, three years in a row, the GNBC has welcomed me into its family, its traditions, and its famed family production.

How do I return the favor? By writing largely tongue-in-cheek pieces of my experiences with my (thank God) largely sarcastic wives (Grethe Gruarin, '09; Kelly O'Neill, '10; Vanessa Cipolla, '11). I also try not to harm any of the children or props (or burn the eyeballs of those watching me on stage).

Why do I do this? I'm hoping it keeps me out of larger roles (and tights. I would not look good in tights).

It's also something of a defense mechanism. As I've said before, I really don't belong on the same stage as these dancers. I mean, let's face it: Tonya Milne (Snow Queen) is an artistic, agile, amazing performer; Irek Muchalski (Cavalier/Sugar Plum Prince) is legendary for his spot-on footwork and on-stage quarterbacking; Grace Gruarin (Dew Drop Fairy) is a machine -- she could literally play every role to perfection; and "The Professor," Aniko Nagy, is bound to play on larger stages.

They are the real deal.

I am, well, a writer, who took three years to master some simple steps.

Fortunately, my "Nutcracker" pieces seem to draw some laughs, and some extra attention, and that, in turn, draws extra awareness to these fine performers and the company, itself. So, in that regard, I guess "The Nutcracker" and I work well together.

I welcome you this weekend to our show, and I hope you enjoy watching Western New York's finest ballet dancers.

And me. I'll be the one pretending to drum, moving a large blue box, and throwing shawls on top of my terrifically gifted pretend wife ... and whichever children we can coerce off stage.

Like I said, we're not picky.

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