There are more than 10,000 seats at the Muny, and when filled with theatergoers, they can make a daunting sight from the other side of the lights. Lara Teeter — the veteran Broadway song-and-dance man who has both starred and directed at the Muny — knows exactly how imposing it can look.
So naturally, he wondered how that vast crowd would strike his daughter Elizabeth. She was playing Tootie, the youngest of the Smith sisters, in the perennial Muny favorite “Meet Me in St. Louis.” If you know the show — and if you’re a St. Louisan, there’s a good chance that you do — then you know that as the play opens, Tootie enters, all alone, singing the title song.
It’s a big challenge — especially for a 7-year-old.
“But Elizabeth loved it,” her father recalls. “She said that it was awesome.”
But by now, the 14-year-old performer has gone on to two Broadway hits: She played Jane Banks in the musical “Mary Poppins,” a role she reprised at the Muny, and young Princess Elizabeth in “The Audience.” (Helen Mirren played her grown-up counterpart, Queen Elizabeth II.)
In January, she’s off to New York again, to begin rehearsal under hot director Ivo van Hove for a Broadway revival of “The Crucible.” An eighth-grader at Hixson Middle School in Webster Groves, Elizabeth is the perfect age to portray one of the Puritan girls who sparked a firestorm in colonial Salem, Mass.
But this week, she and her dad will team up on yet another stage, dancing the roles of Clara and Herr Drosselmeyer in Missouri Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
“I love working with my daughter,” says Teeter, 60, who heads the musical theater department at Webster University. In the fall, he also directs the annual Variety Children’s Theatre, a big family show that features professional actors and student actors, plus children and teens of all levels of ability. “I can tell you just from watching Elizabeth from the wings, she knows how to find her light. She radiates wonder and delight.
“But onstage, we look at each other as Drosselmeyer and Clara, not as father and daughter.”
The ballet, of course, tells the classic story of a little girl, Clara, whose parents give a big holiday party. One of the guests, Drosselmeyer, gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker. Later that night, the Nutcracker comes to heroic life in Clara’s exciting Christmas Eve dreams, full of snowflakes and sugar plums.
Just as important as the story is the famous Tchaikovsky score. “It’s infectious,” Teeter says. “It’s as much a part of Christmas as a carol.”
Over the last 113 years, Drosselmeyer has been performed in many different moods by many different dancers, including Teeter. “He often wears an eyepatch and a strange wig, but I won’t,” Teeter says. “My Drosselmeyer is a little more fun-loving.”
Board Member Melissa Forck on the Michelle Esswein Show
August 16, 2015
Michelle Esswein is a host on KLOU 103.3 in St. Louis. She discusses economic development, jobs, entrepreneurship and community issues in business, education, government and health initiatives that can build successful careers, businesses and family lives.
Melissa and Michelle discuss the history of the Missouri Ballet Theatre, how Adam Sage started St. Charles’ premiere ballet company, how to audition for the company, a food pantry charity performance, upcoming shows for the 2015-2016 season (including the audience-thrilling “Breaking Boundries”), how your children can get involved in “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella”, and how you can help support the Ballet, how to get back stage tours, and how to get tickets and season subscription.