With the 2020 Christmas season officially underway – no matter how stunted by the pandemic – it’s time to think of one of Ahwatukee’s longest holiday traditions – the Nutcracker presented by Dance Studio 111 owner and local resident Kimberly Lewis.
Since two long-running Thanksgiving weekend traditions – the Santa helicopter drop at Millie’s Hallmark and the Festival of Lights Kick-Off Party have been canceled – Lewis’ production takes on an even bigger meaning in a season that’s been shredded by COVID-19.
Tempe Union High School District has already put Lewis’ traditional venue, Desert Vista High, off limits.
So, she’s presenting her 21st annual Ahwatukee Nutcracker at the Madison Center for the Arts at 5601. N. 16th St., where the show will be at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 19 and 1 p.m. Dec. 20.
Lewis found the Madison Center after some frantic moments.
“Theaters sign contracts years in advance,” Lewis said. “I found smaller theaters but they did not have the rigging and fly system for backdrops and room for props to bring the magic of the Nutcracker to the stage.”
Then she called Madison, a 2-year-old venue that Lewis called “a first-class state-of-the-art theater. This theater is gorgeous.”
But the news was bleak: Madison was booked for the mid-December weekend she needed it.
“I cannot tell you how many phone calls and hotel ballrooms and parks I contacted and how many miles I put on my car driving all over the Valley to find a venue for our Nutcracker,” Lewis said.
But the company that had rented Madison the weekend she needed it backed out, and so the show will go on.
The theater will handle all ticket sales and will follow all health protocols, including socially distant seating. Families will be able to purchase tickets to sit together and the theater ropes off other seats.
“This theater is triple the cost that we have in our budget but I am hoping our Ahwatukee Foothills Community will continue to support us and make the drive to the theater to support our children who have been in rehearsals since August to bring this show to life,” Lewis said.
“We need our community’s support and we need them to please come see the magic of the Nutcracker this holiday season,” she added, noting the theater is a 19-mile drive from Ahwatukee, located off the Loop 51 Piestewa Freeway and Missouri Avenue.
Lewis already knows what she wants under her tree: the same feeling of accomplishment she has every December after another Nutcracker production.
“As long as we are able to pay our theater rental and tech crew this year,” she said, “that’s all I want for a Christmas.”