The show will go on
For the past nine years the Chehalem Valley Dance Academy has performed 'The Nutcracker' as a fundraiser for Newberg charitable organizations, raising in excess of $140,000 during that time.
Then came 2020 and COVID-19 and it became clear the troupe could not safely assemble fans at Newberg High School to witness the annual holiday rite.
So CVDA's owner and supporters came up with a new idea: How about creating a feature film of the performance and releasing it online?
So they did just that. The result, called 'The Nutcracker Movie: Presented by CVDA," will be unveiled Dec. 23 at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/newbergnutcracker. The cost to stream the high-quality download is $25.
"You'll see masks on our dancers and other fun nods to this year as we celebrate the good we can still do," a website created for the event says.
But don't expect a low-quality piece filmed with somebody's cell phone. The production is the product of a professional production company, The Camden Picture Company, owned by Newberg residents Ingrid and Matt Moriarty, who served as director of photography and has amassed an impressive resume over the past 30-plus years shooting movies and TV shows.
The crew had recently completed filming a "major motion picture" in Portland, a release from the troupe said, and signed on to help produce, direct and film the performance. The 30-person crew and the dancers were housed and fed by community members.
The Moriarty's oldest daughter, Ella, served as co-director of the production, as well as rehearsal assistant and a primary dancer in the production. Sydney Moriarty was the assistant director on the project as well.
"We have never done a film production like this before," Ingrid Moriarty said in an email. "This is CVDA/Kristen Stoller's wildest dreams situation."
The movie's trailer is narrated by actor Noah Wyle of television's "ER" fame.
"Matt and Noah have been friends and professional collaborators for several years," Moriarty said. "Noah also has a strong Oregon connection because he did five seasons of the TNT series 'The Librarians' in and around Portland."
"It just wouldn't be Christmas in Newberg, Oregon, without the 'Nutcracker," Wyle says in the trailer for the film.
Forty-one dancers, ages 2 to 18, began rehearsing for the performance in September. Stoller, CVDA's owner and artistic director, was responsible for guiding the dancers.
"With social distancing, masks, restrictions and, most recently, dancing outside … we have had a total of seven indoor rehearsals" and two outdoor rehearsals, Moriarty said.
The rehearsals were in anticipation of a full day of filming on Dec. 13 at Water Oasis, an outdoor event center near Newberg.
A plethora of film industry professionals from the Portland area donated their time and equipment to the effort, Moriarty said, adding that most have a background in shooting major motion pictures. In addition, a long list of businesses and other organizations ranging from Red Hills Market in Dundee to Pulp and Circumstance in Newberg, "donated time, equipment, services, support," Moriarty said. "Other sponsors (paid) for costumes, advertising/marketing and other miscellaneous expenses. This year, those are very low. The sponsors' additional monies all get added to the total that we donate to local charities."
The troupe and its supporters' goal is to raise $10,000 to be donated to Newberg FISH, A Family Place Relief Nursery and the Community Wellness Collective. None of the proceeds will go to the CVDA or the industry professionals who produced the film.
"The studio has never taken any funds from the 'Nutcracker' for anything," Moriarty said. "There is a small fee to dancers that helps to cover minimal costs for staff hours not volunteered."
First performed at the Newberg Community Center, 'The Nutcracker' has been staged ever since at Newberg High School.
"It has been received very well," Moriarty said, "with lots of business sponsorships, volunteers, sold-out shows and last year the cast was over 125 dancers."
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