Muskogee school puts on production of 'Harlem Nutcracker'

Friday, December 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa Ballet is holding its annual production of "The Nutcracker" at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. But there's another production in rehearsal at a public school in Muskogee. News on Six reporter Glenda Silvey has a preview of the "Harlem Nutcracker.

It’s a different twist on a holiday classic. Duke Ellington rearranged Tchaikovsky's score to jazz it up. It tells the same tale; only this one is set in Harlem in the 30's. Tiffany Stone, Teacher: "It's the exact same story. It's just a little bouncier than the other version." That's why Sadler Arts Academy Music Teacher Tiffany Stone decided to switch from the school's usual production of the traditional ballet to the Harlem Nutcracker. 160 students grades K through 8 are taking part.

Stone says she loves exposing them to both classical music and jazz, and they love performing it. "Because Ellington made this arrangement so festive and bright, the kids are just having a ball. I mean we've been rehearsing for a couple of months. They love staying after school to rehearse." In 1996, Sadler was the lowest performing school in Muskogee history. The district shut it down, and then reopened it with a new faculty and strong arts emphasis in all academic areas. Maudye Winget, Principal: "From the first year, we had the biggest test score gain in the state of Oklahoma, having restaffed the school and giving the school a focus through the arts."

It's a great fit for Michael Morrisey, who plays the lead role of Nutcracker Prince. He plans to become an animator. Michael Morrisey, Sadler Student: "Going to art classes really helped me develop my drawing, and a little bit of painting - it's been doing that a lot. And dancing's been kind of getting my moves together." Sharniece Starks, who plays Clara, says she appreciates going to a school that offers so much music, and the cast loves doing "Harlem Nutcracker." Sharniece Starks, Sadler Student: "I think it's great. We all have fun working together. It's not all just rehearsal together all the time; we have fun and rehearse too. It's great."

Winget says the show offers further proof of what Sadler staff and students experience directly: there's magic in the arts. Sadler’s Harlem Nutcracker is supported by a number of community foundations and dozens of parent and teacher volunteers.

Three thousand tickets have been sold, but there are still seats available for performances running through the 19th. To get yours, call 918-684-3820.