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No theater? No problem.

The Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre is moving its annual Louisiana-themed "Nutcracker" to the Raising Cane's River Center Arena.

It's only a few steps away from the River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts, where the company usually stages "The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou," but Clara's dream world is undergoing some changes in the temporary venue.

The show opens on Saturday, Dec. 15, for four performances over the weekend, accompanied by the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra. Its new venue was necessitated by a two-year renovation project at the theater.

The move added to the company's costs, and it will not be able to use its signature, south Louisiana-themed backdrops designed by Nels Anderson.

The stage will be situated on one end of the arena with the audience sitting in front. The rest of the area behind and on the sides of the stage will be cordoned off by curtains.

"We actually have more seats in the arena than we do in the theater," says Molly Buchmann, who shares co-artistic director duties with Sharon Mathews. "But the seats are situated differently than they are in the theater. The audiences sitting higher will be looking down on the stage."

And there will be no curtain at the front of the stage, but there will still be plenty of magic.

First, last year's guest artists Alison Stroming and Aaron Smyth are returning as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Ballet fans who saw Disney's "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" in theaters earlier this fall will remember Smyth dancing the part of the Snow Cavalier opposite Misty Copeland's Ballerina Princess.

Stroming is a member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and both she and Smyth are arriving early to dance in the school day performances on Friday.

"The school day performances are sold out," Buchmann says. "And both of these artists are amazing. And I have to say Aaron is a sweetheart — all of the little girls in our production are in love with him."

Second, "The Nutcracker's" story will play out in south Louisiana despite the absence of Anderson's backdrops, which were too large for the arena stage. So, Andre Chapoy is using Anderson’s sets to create some special effects.

And lastly, stage managers have built a machine to quietly blow snow onto the dancers in the snow scene since it can no longer be dropped from above. 

Sadly, there will be no balloon in the arena, so Clara will use an alternate exit from Act I.

"We don't want to give too much away," Mathews says. "It's going to be beautiful, but we don't want to spoil the surprises."

Both Buchmann and Mathews also are warning their audiences against ticket scalpers. Second-hand websites are selling "Nutcracker" tickets at higher prices.

"You should buy only from Ticketmaster or by calling our office," Buchmann says. "Always check the website that pops up before you buy tickets. We haven't increased the price of our tickets."

And these tickets will buy the same amount of magic in the River Center Arena.  

“Change can be a good thing,” Buchmann says. “I think audiences will be excited to see all of the creative ways we adapt to our new space."

'The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou'

Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre's annual holiday production

WHEN: 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16.

WHERE: Raising Cane's River Center Arena, 275 S. River Road.

ADMISSION: $25-$59.

TICKETS/INFORMATION: Call (225) 766-8379 or visit

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.