MBS Productions’ “Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker” gets national nomination and TV attention

Every year, MBS Productions puts on its annual holiday show, The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents: A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker!, which has become part of the seasonal theater tradition in these parts. But the little show that could, has. We learned that the show is nominated for the Goldstar National Nutcracker award. Yes, there is an award for Nutcracker productions, and MBS may be joining some of prestigious if it wins. From MBS Productions.

Goldstar announced on December 26, 2011 the nominees of the Goldstar National Nutcracker award, also known as the “Nutty” award, which honors the best and most loved Nutcracker performances in the United States. This year MBS Productions’ The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents: A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker! was nominated. Goldstar has selected 50 Nutcrackers throughout the United States worthy of nomination. Some of the other nominees include Joffrey Ballet from Chicago, Moscow Classical Ballet’s show in Los Angeles, San Francisco Ballet, Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra’s The Swinging Nutcracker in Washington DC and Pacific Northwestern Ballet from Seattle.

The Goldstar National Nutcracker Award, which made its debut in 2007, is awarded to the The Nutcracker with the best member reviews and event rating. To assure the authenticity of the ratings, members are only able to submit reviews and vote on their favorite Nutcracker after they have purchased tickets and seen the show. In addition to the Nutty, the winner will also be given a $2,500 cash prize to be used toward their education programs.

“Today, it’s amazing how many Nutcracker performances there are in the U.S.— shows feature everything from puppets and horses to jazz bands and gypsies,” said Jim McCarthy, CEO of Goldstar. “With the Nutty Award, we want to encourage people to go see all the different shows their city has to offer, while also adding an element of hometown competition to what has been an American holiday tradition for the last 60 years.”

Previous winners include The House Theater of Chicago, The Kirov Ballet, The Boston Ballet and last year’s Debbie Allen Presents The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.

MBS Productions was soon followed up with a call from the ABC news show Nightline for a potential profile about the show from the nomination. The segment is rumored to air the week of Christmas.

Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker runs through Dec. 27 at the Stone Cottage Theater in Addison.

—  Rich Lopez

Applause: In step with Stevenson

Texas Ballet Theater’s acclaimed artistic director looks ahead to a career milestone: His first staging of ‘Giselle’

Ben Stevenson has had many distinctions in his 75 years. Now entering his ninth season as artistic director of the Texas Ballet Theater, the legendary leader of the Houston Ballet has been named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (he’s a native of Portsmouth, England) and even had a feature film made over his role in a famous Cold War defection (2009’s Mao’s Last Dancer, in which Stevenson was portrayed by Bruce Greenwood).

But oddly enough, even one of our most respected living ballet masters had a surprising gap in his resume: He has never staged one of the world’s most famous ballets, Giselle.

That’s about to change, though, as his production of the 19th century ballet by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot opens Texas Ballet Theater’s 2011-12 season in October.

“It’s a romantic ballet I’ve always liked,” said Stevenson in a phone conversation from Sonoma, Calif., where he was accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Anaheim International Dance Festival. “I’m going to keep the choreography from over the years, but am directing a new production of it — a traditional production.”

“Tradition” is key in the world of big-budget classical ballet, where The Nutcracker never misses a Christmas and audiences generally return to the warhorse titles like Swan Lake, perhaps even more than in the worlds of opera or musical theater. But even with that in mind, TBT’s upcoming season isn’t about the same-ol’, same-ol’.

It starts with the aforementioned masterpiece Giselle (not only Stevenson’s first staging, but a premiere for the company in its 54 years), and has the Nut, of course (the only ballet this season that will be performed at the Winspear Opera House). But there’s also the return of Stevenson’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the season ends with two weekends of the Portraits Ballet Festival, featuring two of Stevenson’s one-act ballets (Bartok and Image); George Balanchine’s Apollo; another new work for the company’s repertoire, Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena; as well as premieres by TBT dancers Carl Coomer and Peter Zweifel. The festival will take place at a new locale for the TBT: the Wyly Theatre.

It will mark the first ballet from Coomer. Zweifel, on the other hand, has had a new ballet in the company’s seasons for several years. His most recent, Love Always Remains, was an audience and critical hit.

“I think he’s grown a lot,” Stevenson says of Zweifel. “I always thought Peter had an amazing imagination, and he showed talent right from the beginning. Each piece he’s done has gotten stronger and stronger.”

Love Always Remains mixes contemporary rock music (MGMT) with classical (Vivaldi), which is something Stevenson says traditional ballet fans are going to have to get used to.

“I think if people want to do a piece to toilet flushing, and they think they’ve got a fabulous idea, then I say, ‘Well, let’s see what happens,’” Stevenson says.

What he doesn’t think audiences should get used to is canned music at TBT performances. There still won’t be live music this season nor in the foreseeable future, but Sir Ben insists it will return.

“I’ve not performed with a company without an orchestra before, and it’s very strange,” he says. “It’s tough for everyone right now, and it’s either cutting shows or cutting something else. When the economy gets better, we will have it again.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas