En Face

Eek! Milwaukee Ballet’s Mouse Problem…

When I was little, I went to see The Nutcracker at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago every holiday season. The most vivid of my early memories of this magical show are the mice. They were naughty. They were big. And in the production I grew up with, they were naked. Horrors. 

The mice you see in Milwaukee Ballet’s production are also naughty. They are big. But, they are pretty stylish as far as mice go. Purple velvet jackets with silver braided trim, black hats and leather boots. They are well-dressed and well-loved rodents, and a mainstay of the production. No ordinary field mice, our mouse infantry are the highly-trained soldiers of the glorious Rat King. They balance the production’s sweetness, with a little sauce.

In 1997, a grant from the Joan, Jack and Victor Stein Foundation allowed Milwaukee Ballet to completely redesign the sets and costumes (redesigned by Zack Brown) of Milwaukee’s favorite holiday show.

With two casts of 10 mice in the infantry (five played by students in Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy, and five played by dancers in our Milwaukee Ballet II program), an average of 16 shows per year and 14 years of the production, the infantry is cracked, tired and worn.  Over 600 costume changes are enough to bring down even the toughest critter.

We admit it.  We have a mouse problem.

Local mouse experts, Anderson Pest Solutions, came to the rescue this season to help refurbish the infantry and bring them back to fighting shape. Their $5,000 costume sponsorship will give two mice new heads with a fresh coat of fur, new teeth and bright new ears. Their regal attire will be spruced up in our own costume shop.

Mouse sketchThe heads are a work of art,  expertly crafted of paper maché – important as theses heads are worn by dancing children, and paper maché is both durable and relatively light- by the famed Martin Izquierdo Studios in New York. Izquierdo Studio has worked on many productions of The Nutcracker, including several designed by Zack Brown, as well as movies such as Ghostbusters and The Bird Cage, Spiderman I and II, and the Victoria’s Secret Angel fashion shows.

This is the first time in the Company’s history that we have had a pest control sponsor. We couldn’t be more pleased. They are a great example of taking corporate responsibility to a creative new level. A special thank you to Anderson Pest Solutions for supporting the Ballet’s The Nutcracker costume restoration efforts as well as our other generous costume sponsors: Ann & Richard Teerlink; Maureen & Keith Kolb; Nita Soref; Mary and Michael Ryan; Andrea & Tony Bryant; Craig Young & Sharon Busey; Towne Center Branch Families- Schmitz, Maginot , Grainger, Mulrooney; Mary & Tim Dondlinger; Tricia Savitt; Glenn & Kathryn Christenson.

The Nutcracker brings families together at the holidays and makes memories that last a lifetime.  Thanks to all our donors, sponsors and patrons whose support ensures that great holiday traditions continue.

There are still a number of costumes which need to be restored. To find out more, contact me at (414) 902.2129 or areilly [at] milwaukeeballet [dot] org.

Angela Reilly
Development Director