Joe Napoli joins cast of ‘Nutcracker’ as Mother GingerWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Every year, the Toledo Ballet invites a local celebrity to participate in their production of “Nutcracker.” This year, that celebrity is Joe Napoli, President and General Manager of the Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye.
Napoli will play the non-dancing role of Mother Ginger, a role that has been played in the past by Brian Kennedy, Director of The Toledo Museum of Art, and Tom Walton, a former staff member of the Toledo Blade. Toledo Ballet Executive Director Mari Davies said it is a role the audience is always excited to see.
Davies reached out to Napoli, who she said was “thrilled” and “humbled” to be asked.
“He’s standing in pretty big shoes,” she said. “I try and save that role for people of that stature in our community.”
Davies admired Napoli’s involvement with the community and children.
“He’s just a really engaged member of the community,” she said. “I thought it would be a really nice fit. I thought the audience would have great fun to have our two sports teams play this role.”
Davies also wanted to collaborate with an athletic organization.
“[I wanted to] have the arts and athletics come together, because really, when you think about, dance is incredibly athletic. Dancers are athletes, there is no doubt about it, probably some of the toughest athletes you’ll ever come across. So it made sense,” Davies said.
Whoever plays Mother Ginger sits on a rolling scaffold, almost 20 feet high. The scaffold is covered by a costume, a floor-length dress, making the character look “larger than life,” Davies said. Each year, the role is played by a male dressing as a female, wearing makeup and a bonnet. During the production, Mother Ginger is rolled out onto the stage with eight dancers underneath the dress called Ginger Snaps.
Davies said Napoli will do well with the role.
Napoli is joining the production during its 75th anniversary. The production is celebrating the anniversary with a new set, modeled after the Manor House, formerly the Stranahan estate now part of Wildwood Metropark. The set was unveiled at a news conference on Oct. 15.
Davies had the intention of mirroring the Manor House for the set to celebrate local roots.
“[I] wanted a way to celebrate our own local community which has supported us over the last 75 years,” she said in a new release. “The wonderful thing about ‘Nutcracker’ is that it is a universal tale of the magic of childhood, so we decided that Clara doesn’t have to live in Germany. We are bringing her home and moving her into the Manor House.”
The set was designed by Thomas Umfrid, a professor of scenic and costume design at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.
“You only celebrate your 75th anniversary once,” Davies said.
“Nutcracker,” which was first performed in 1941, will be accompanied with the Toledo Symphony. This year’s performances are Dec. 14 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. at the Stranahan Theater.
For tickets, call (419) 381-8851 or visit toledoballet.org.
Tags: Brian Kennedy Director of The Toledo Museum of Art, Ginger Snaps, Joe Napoli President and General Manager of the Toledo Mudhens and Walleye, Manor House, Mother Ginger, Nutcracker, Thomas Umfrid, Toledo Ballet, Toledo Ballet Executive Director Mari Davies, Toledo Blade, University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, Wildwood Metropark