'Nutcracker' Extravaganza Returns to the P.S. 89 Stage

Sugar Plum Fairies from P.S. 276 perform in Manhattan Youth's production of "The Nutcracker." Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 13, 2016

Twenty-six dance pieces, nearly 300 performers. That was the seventh annual “Nutcracker” extravaganza, staged Saturday at P.S. 89 by Manhattan Youth’s after-school dance programs.  The show has grown so large, with more kids and classes than ever, that it took two different shows in an afternoon to accommodate all the Chinese tea cups, waltzing flowers, Sugar Plum Fairies, toy soldiers and mice. For the first time there were even ushers and assigned seats for the two packed houses.

Manhattan Youth's "The Nutcracker," with costumes by Constance Tarbox; choreography by Yun Chun Chua, Aatifa Drayton, Junie Kenworthy, Natasha Barwick, Karen Ng, Frida Persson and Bella Takkunen; lighting and tech by Matthew Michaels and Jamie Watkins.

Fitting two dress rehearsals into one day with two cohorts of kids had been untried and something of a concern, said Susan Kay, who adapts and directs the production each year. “I was nervous because there were a lot of unknowns,” she said.

But in the end everything went smoothly. “When it’s all up there, it’s like, whoo! Ok!”

In past productions, Kay has taken liberties with the Nutcracker story and slipped contemporary messages about homelessness, self-acceptance and cultural tolerance into the show. Not this time.

“There was no message,” she said, “other than making sure the kids have a good time.”