Hank Stolz spoke with Lisa Condit, Ashleigh Prince, Jennifer Agbay and Morgan Soulé from The Nutcracker about The Nutcracker, the audition process and so much more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Hank: It is time to go Behind The Scenes at The Hanover Theatre, and here are Lisa Condit and Ashleigh Prince! 

Lisa: Good morning, so excited to be here! Ashleigh has been doing a great job and we have a really interesting interview ahead. I also just wanted to let everybody know that Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies LIVE! is now on sale. If you’re into dance or if you happened to miss last weekend’s dance performance, this is going to take your breath away. Next up, I’d love to introduce Ashleigh, and she does a nice interview with Jennifer Agbay, our Director of Dance, and the dancer cast as Clara in this year’s Thanksgiving weekend production of The Nutcracker. 

Ashleigh: Hello everyone and welcome back to Behind The Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. Today, we have a very special and magical guest Morgan Soulé, who is our new Clara in The Nutcracker. Hello, Morgan! 

Morgan Soulé is posed in an arabesque. holding a Nutcracker before her.
Morgan Soulé as Clara. Mike Nyman

Morgan: Hi! 

Ashleigh: We also have Jen Agbay here. Hello, Jen! 

Jennifer: Hello, Ashleigh! Nice to be here with you again.  

Ashleigh: I figured it would be a great opportunity to interview the two of you about our upcoming production of The Nutcracker. It’s a treasured holiday classic and everyone has such high praise for it, so I just wanted to talk a little bit about it and our new Clara. Morgan, would you like to introduce yourself? 

Morgan: I’m Morgan Soulé and I’m the 2021 Clara for The Hanover Theatre’s The NutcrackerI am 14 years old and I’m in the 9th grade at the Lawrence Academy right now. I’m really excited to be performing in this year’s The Nutcracker, especially since last year we were in tough times where we couldn’t perform on the stage with a full performance.  

I’m really excited to get back to that this year and be able to perform with our beautiful set that we have.

Morgan Soolay

Ashleigh: So exciting! I’m already envisioning all of the beautiful snow, beautiful costumes and beautiful sets. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s inspired by a pop-up book and it’s just absolutely gorgeous. Jen, would you like to hop in and introduce yourself to all of our listeners? 

Jennifer: Sure! I’m Jennifer Agbay, I’m the Director of Dance here at the Conservatory, and this is my 4th year, going closer to 5 years very soon. This is one of my favorite times of the year – it has become such a magical event for me to see my dancers, ideas, and set design on stage. 

The new set of The Nutcracker. The background depicts a whimsical town with a music and sweets shop where the townspeople are shopping.
The Nutcracker Set. Mike Nyman 2019

Jennifer: Many years ago, when my children were little, my mother presented them with a pop-up book of The Nutcracker. It was just so beautiful and so telling, and the children were just so enamored by it. I said to myself, “If I ever got this chance to have a full production with all the bells and whistles, I would make it into this pop-up book world.” Thank God, with the talents of our Broadway designers now, my dream has really come true.  

Ashleigh: It is! If you happened to attend the Sounds of Summer event a few weeks ago, we actually had a display out that Jennifer Agbay lovingly put out in our lobby, with examples of costumes and the way that the staging looks. It was so beautiful, so many people were snapping pictures of it and getting excited. If that was just the model, imagine seeing it big, beautiful, and bright on The Hanover Theatre’s stage! 

I hope people get that same whimsical, magical feeling that I do and that I know I share with the dancers.

Jennifer Agbay

Jennifer: Bringing it all together and making a tradition out of it and having little kids there, even though they may not understand ballet, they understand lights and vibrant costumes and they appreciate all of that. If people are getting ecstatic just through the models and the costumes, that makes me feel so happy and makes it all worth it. 

Ashleigh: It’s so amazing. Morgan, can you tell me what the audition process is like when you’re auditioning for Clara in The Nutcracker? I imagine it’s very rigorous.  

Morgan: Yeah, it can be stressful at times. The first part of the audition, the ballet class, was definitely more stressful this time around. Usually it’s not – it’s more of the choreography, which is the callback. This time, it was more the ballet audition [that was stressful] because I really wanted to show what I had been working on all summer and all last year and try and improve. You can have some nerves going into it but I definitely thought that with callbacks, it was easier to calm my nerves before it.

Morgan Soulé is posed in an sous-sus in her pointe shoes. She is gazing down at the nutcracker beside her.
Morgan Soulé as Clara. Mike Nyman

Morgan: Even though I’m a student at The Hanover, I treated the audition like I had never danced in front of them before. I believed that it didn’t really matter that I danced there, and I still had to prove myself because everything is based off what happens that day.  

Ashleigh: Absolutely, and I think that our Conservatory does a very good job of preparing all of its people for success and greatness. We’ve seen so many things with The Youth Acting Company and The Youth Summer Program, and of course The Nutcracker; The Conservatory never ceases to amaze me. It’s always made us so proud here at The Hanover Theatre. Let’s talk a little bit about the show, what is The Nutcracker about? 

The Nutcracker Set. Mike Nyman 2019

Morgan: It’s about this little girl, her brother, and the rest of her family that have a really nice party. Drosselmeyer then comes in and kind of freaks everyone out a little bit at the beginning, but reveals that it’s just him and he just wants to come and bear gifts, and be with his family and friends at the party. He gets to show his magic and how he wants to give Clara a really cool experience with the nutcracker. He sets Clara aside from the rest of the other girls from giving them dolls and gives her the nutcracker. It’s then her journey with the nutcracker through the Land of Snow, the Angels, and the Land of Sweets with all of the amazing performers. It’s all about her journey and how much he shows his affection for her by giving her the nutcracker and giving her this wonderful, magical experience that not all the other kids got.

Ashleigh: It’s a wonderful story and it really is timeless. Jen, how big is the cast this year?

Jennifer: Oh, we’re talking about over 100 cast members. It’s quite exciting! I think we have now set a bar here with our production, and people want to be a part of it.

Ashleigh: Everyone listening, if you’re ready to experience this dazzling new set by broadway designers, this enchanting story and all of these amazing dancers including Morgan, you have 6 opportunities for you to see The Nutcracker on Thanksgiving weekend. Get your tickets now!