Battle scene

"The Nutcracker" will be performed by the New Castle Regional Ballet at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Tickets are available by calling the Cathedral at 724-658-7122, or visiting, and can also be purchased at the door.

Brent Addleman | NEWS

For the 31st year, the show must go on at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

The New Castle Regional Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker” on Friday and Sunday. Friday’s performance is for students attending Lawrence County schools, and Sunday's 2 p.m. performance is for the public.

“The Nutcracker” is under the direction of Debbie Parou, who is the founding artistic director, and features around 80 school-aged children from Lawrence and Mercer counties performing in the ballet, many of whom are repeating their role again this year.

“Some of them have been doing the lead parts for two, three years so it has been really nice to see them grow in their role,” said Elissa Cowher, who serves as assistant artistic director. “The part doesn’t change and the dancer doesn’t change, but the performance changes because they are able to grow and get more confident.”

“The Nutcracker” premiered in 1892 in the Soviet Union, featuring a musical score written by Tchaikovsky. The ballet is a fairy tale centered on a family’s Christmas Eve celebration with flurrying snow, a giant Christmas tree, wooden soldiers, mice and, of course, ballet dancers.

For Lorree Houk, president of New Castle Regional Ballet, she is looking “forward to another great performance” and “ticket sales are going well.”

The ballet features dancers Madison Scheidemantle and Raleigh Shimrack. Cowher said Scheidemantle suffered a broken foot more than one month ago, but has regained her form. She said both dancers are returning in their roles.

“Luckily, it is Madison’s third year doing this part,” Cowher said. “She was able to recover and get better and she feels comfortable and grows from that. She just really persevered.

“They learn that they have to perform 100 percent no matter where we are or what we are doing because we have high expectations for them. They learn to practice just like it is a performance from day one. By the time we get to the performance they are able to feel comfortable and confident and able to really perform. They won’t feel nervous.”

Scheidemantle has been performing in the ballet since she was age 2. At age 17, she finds comfort in the role.

“It is a little bit hard, because I feel like I am not as strong as I was,” she said about her healing foot. “I did the part last year, so that is good. I know what to work on.”

Shimrack, who has been in the performance since she was three, has found there is more to dance than just coming to learn.

“Elissa used to dance here, so growing up with all of that and then her coming back makes me realize how special this place is,” Shimrack said. “It just doesn’t teach you dance, it teaches you discipline and what the real world will be like and it brings resume opportunities to me.

“Everyone is so, so excited. The little girls – their smiles on their faces are so big. You can tell that for dress rehearsal they pretend there is an audience out here.”

Shimrack, who is the oldest of 14 grandchildren with many involved in the performance, said she will use her experience to calm the nerves of her younger counterparts come showtime.

“I will tell them I have done this before and you have to treat it like you are giving a gift to the audience,” she said. “You have to reach them and touch their hearts. That is your job as a dancer.

“I am very thankful for everyone who put such hard work into getting this ready for us. Without Elissa, Lorree and Debbie we wouldn’t be in this huge cathedral dancing on stage in front of tons of people.”

Cowher couldn’t help but become emotional while

talking about the performance.

“It is very special,” Cowher said. “It is the best thing, it is for everybody,” she said fighting back tears. “For me, I am just looking forward to teaching the next generation and help them grow.”

Tickets are $18 and are available by calling the Scottish Rite Cathedral at 724-658-7122, by visiting, or can be purchased at the door.

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