|Five Questions For.... Monica Richardson
by Deborah Hinds
For anyone interested in a multicultural, fast-paced, and toe-tapping
version of the traditional ballet The Nutcracker, The Chocolate
Nutcracker is a delightful treat. In this upbeat twist on the original
version, a young girl is given a chocolate nutcracker for Christmas.
Suddenly she’s taken on a musical journey with stops in 1950s
Harlem, Africa, Egypt, and
Each stop showcases
different forms of dance,
including ballet, tap, jazz,
hip-hop, salsa, and African.
There are over 250 dancers
in this production, including
performers and local children
Monica Richardson, a petite 21-year-old of Cuban and Trinidadian
descent, plays Claire, the production’s lead character. Richardson is a
graduate of New World School of the Arts in Miami, and has been
dancing since she was 3 years old. She’s also one of the show’s
primary choreographers. Recently, she talked about her role in this
unique and highly entertaining show that has been a favorite across
the United States for 11 years and counting.
1 This is your 7th season playing Claire? How did this
role/opportunity originally come to you?
I was 13-years-old, attending New World (High School) when I heard
about the audition for Claire. Everyone told me ‘you should try out—
you’re small, you know you can do it,’ so I did. Miss LaVerne Reed
(the show’s creator) held the audition and there were a lot of kids
there and I was chosen to play Claire. I started doing the show in
Miami, and then she (Reed) asked me to come to Clearwater (Florida)
to do the show there. Every year she called me and asked me to do
the show, and it just so happens that every year around that time I’
2. What is your favorite part about being in this production?
It would have to be doing the choreography and working with the
kids. Enlightening them to the professional world of dancing. Some of
these kids (from the local community who are in the show) have such
raw talent, but they can’t afford to take dance classes. So to be able
to mold them into professional dancers one day…that makes me
happy. And to see them grow from September when I start working
with them, to December when we do the show, and they’re looking
like professional young dancers and they’ve never taken a class
before. It’s so rewarding to feel that I’ve played a part in their
3. The show is in its 11th season nationwide. Why do you think it
continues to be so popular with audiences each year?
I think it’s popular because it’s not the ordinary Nutcracker. It gives
the audience something to look forward to seeing—not just ballet. If
you ask people how many ballets they’ve been to, most will tell you
‘zero,’ because people think ballet is going to be boring. This show
gives people the opportunity to see so many different kinds of
dancing and there is something for everyone—swing dancing, tap,
jazz, hip-hop. It speaks to all cultures and touches people of all ages.
4. What other projects are you currently doing (in addition to The
During the week, I do choreography for dance competitions and
shows in Miami, and then I work on this show on the weekends. I
just came back from Japan, where I did a dance contract for Tokyo
Disney. And I’ve been doing some choreography work for music
videos and (concert) tours. I did choreography for (Hip-Hop Artists)
Missy Elliot, Ja Rule, and a few others.
5. What are some of your goals as a performer long-term?
Dancing and choreography is my passion—and I would love to
eventually open up my own company. I’ll continue doing
choreography for some R&B artists—their music videos and concert
tours. But I sing as well as dance, so I’d like to begin to focus on a
recording career. And when this show (The Chocolate Nutcracker) is
over, I’ll have my weekends free, so I can start working on a demo.
The Chocolate Nutcracker, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida.
December 10, 7:30 pm, December 11, 11 am and 7:30 pm, December
12, 2 pm. Tickets are $12 for day performances and $17 for night
performances. Tickets are available online at http://www.
rutheckerdhall.com or by phone at 727-791-7400.
Note: Performances of The Chocolate Nutcracker include seven cities
from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. during November and
December. Visit www.ticketmaster.com for more information.