SIOUX CITY | Rick Myers has been playing the grandfather character in "The Nutcracker Ballet" for so long, it's not a big deal if he misses a rehearsal. 

"I couldn't make many of the rehearsals this year, so I showed up and Tracy (Bennett) said she wasn't worried because I've done it so much," said Myers, who plays Grandfather Drosselmeyer in the Siouxland Civic Dance Association's production of "The Nutcracker Ballet."  

"And I walked right in, and did my part, and everything was still there." 

When he first started playing the grandfather character 34 years ago, he was a bit young for the role. 

"A lot of aging makeup," he said. "Now, I don't need any aging makeup." 

On the plus side, there's no risk of Myers forgetting his lines -- the ballet doesn't have any speaking parts.

"It's all music and dance," he said of the traditional holiday ballet, which tells the story of Clara, who receives a nutcracker at a Christmas party from her Grandfather Drosselmeyer. Her brother breaks the toy and Clara goes to bed heartbroken. 

Unable to sleep, Clara returns downstairs to find the nutcracker and toys alive and battling an army of mice. Clara stuns the Mouse King in battle, and the toys are victorious. In gratitude, the Nutcracker Prince leads Clara on a journey through the Enchanted Snow Forest to the Kingdom of Sweets.

After playing Grandfather Drosselmeyer probably 15 or 16 times ("I don't know, I lost count"), Myers knows a lot of faces -- the production this year alone features some 100 or so Siouxlanders. 

"I'll see some lady, out at a function or one place or another, and I'll say, 'Didn't you used to dance in the dance company?'" Myers said. "And they'll say, 'Yeah! And you were grandpa! And I was a little tiny girl at the time.' And now here they are, you know, married, and with families." 

Like the people who star in it, the show itself is reshaped a bit from year to year -- but not too much. 

"It does kind of change a little bit, I've noticed that some of the things, Tracy gets a little bit creative with her directing and her choreography," he said. "For the most part, my part has pretty much stayed the same since the first time I did it."  

The show, which the dance company has staged every few years since 1971, is the culmination of months of auditions and casting, rehearsals and choreography, and tens of thousands of dollars' worth of elaborate costuming and sets.

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Nutcracker

"The Nutcracker" performers Callie Cooper and Brian Damburger are pictured at Siouxland Civic Dance Association in Sioux City. The ballet features more than 100 performers, including locals and special guests.

"We have a snowfall on the stage" courtesy of a snow machine, said Tracy Bennett, the show's artistic director. 

This year there will be two guest performers alongside the locals: Alex Buckner and Erina Noda, of Las Vegas. 

Like Myers, Noda has been involved in "The Nutcracker" quite a few times. 

"I did 'The Nutcracker' last year for a local studio, and I think the owner of that studio here in Las Vegas knows somebody connected to Sioux City, and that's how I got into this," said Noda, who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

Noda said she has played a number of roles in different productions of "The Nutcracker."

"I've been in 'The Nutcracker' my entire life," she said. 

In her role as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Noda rules over the play's second act. 

"The second act of 'The Nutcracker' is the kingdom of sweets, so there are all different kinds of, you know sweets -- there are cookies and marzipan and candy canes and all of that," she said. "And I think the Sugar Plum Fairy is the queen, or whatever that is, in that little kingdom." 

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