Pittsburgh Celebrities Will Join PBT’s Pittsburgh-esque Version of The Nutcracker!

Ten local Pittsburgh celebrities will be special guest stars during Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s (PBT) performances of The Nutcracker this year. Each celebrity will make a guest appearance in a walk-on role during the opening prologue and in the entirety of the “Party Scene” during Act l of the classic holiday production.

PBT’s current version of The Nutcracker, choreographed and created by former PBT artistic director, Terrence S. Orr, is the perfect fit for local celebrity appearances due to its special Pittsburgh-centered vibe. The Nutcracker includes more than 13 Pittsburgh connections – from Kennywood, the Kaufmann’s Clock and Shadyside to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins, Mount Washington, the Aviary and more. The distinctive Pittsburgh feel of this ballet makes it great fun to include Pittsburgh guest stars in walk-on roles – adding to the Pittsburgh flair!

PBT will present the holiday classic at the Benedum Center December 8-28. Tickets are available here.

The Pittsburgh celebrities participating in cameos in The Nutcracker this year include:
*please note that guest star appearances may be subject to change

Friday, December 8th @ 7:00 p.m.

Kym Gable, KDKA-TV News Anchor

You can see Kym Gable on KDKA anchoring the 4:00 and 6:00 o’clock news each day. She also hosts a popular weekly segment called “On A Positive Note,” which highlights uplifting stories, inspiring people and unsung heroes in Pittsburgh. Her work in television and commercials has won her several Emmy Awards and Telly Awards. Kym is an accomplished
freelance producer, speaker, confidence coach and voice actress. As an advocate for those less fortunate and in crisis, Kym’s mission of community outreach is her driving force. She operates the South chapter of the non-profit support organization Inspired Women Paying It Forward, which has given local and national charities more than $600,000 since its inception. Real Estate Investor, Cryptocurrency Miner, Dancer, Singer and Martial Arts Enthusiast – Kym’s motto is “You Can’t Live an Extraordinary Life If You Keep Doing Ordinary Things.”

Saturday, December 9 @ 7:00 p.m.

Frzy, Musician/Rapper

Harvey “Frzy” Daniels is a 2018 regional Emmy Award winner for his collaboration with WQED on his hip-hop version of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and on November 1, 2023, launched his second and third albums titled Popularity and Success. Frzy is a member of the Recording Academy (which bestows the annual Grammy Awards) and is a Governor of the Board for the Philadelphia Chapter of the Recording Academy. The City of Pittsburgh was inspired to officially declare January 11, 2018, as “Frzy Day.” Since then, Frzy has become a 2020 Guinness World Record holder for longest freestyle rap at 31 hours, inspired his own Smiley Face Cookie at Eat ‘N Park and has had a mural created in his likeness by famous muralist, Jeremy Raymer. Frzy also serves on the Board of Directors of The Lindsay Theater all this while being the face of Steve Madden’s “Self Made” Campaign. He has helped to raise more than $ 1 million for charities, and this year helped to increase diversity and inclusion awareness via the successful “Books to Bars” campaign with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He collaborated on a historic one-night concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall on November 8, 2023, which was the world premiere of an orchestration of the nationally-known rapper’s new album, Success. Instagram @frzy, TikTok @therapperfrzy, and Facebook OfficialFrzy.

Sun., December 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Gisele Barreto Fetterman, Advocate & Former Second Lady of PA

Gisele Barreto Fetterman is an access and equity advocate, a hugger and the former Second Lady of Pennsylvania. Gisele is the founder of Freestore 15104, where surplus and donated goods are received and redistributed to neighbors in need. Freestore 15104 aims to eradicate food and clothing insecurity and has inspired 13 spin-off locations and the birth of 412 Food Rescue. Gisele is the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a community-wide effort to end hunger and reduce food waste, and has rescued tens of millions of pounds of food. She is also the co-founder of For Good PGH, a non-profit that works to advocate inclusion and inspire kindness. Its first initiative, Hello Hijab, has received both national and international praise. She is also a firefighter with Rivers Edge 113. Gisele was born in Brazil, and emigrated as a child to the US, living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade.

Fri., December 15 at 7:00 p.m.

Daisy Jade, Pittsburgh Today Live Reporter

Pittsburgh native Daisy Jade is a Film/TV Actress, TV Host and Producer. She is the Host and Co-Producer of Fan N’ATion, an award-winning and Emmy-nominated show on KDKA-TV/CBS Pittsburgh, highlighting Pittsburgh sports fans from all over the world. Daisy also reports for the city’s lifestyle and entertainment show, Pittsburgh Today Live. Additionally, Daisy is the on-air talent for Pittsburgh’s CW (WPCW-TV), representing the station at live events and producing content for their website and social media accounts. She hosts and produces the web show The CW Buzz. Fan N’ation won a Keystone Media Award for Best Regularly Scheduled News or Sports Talk Program in 2022, and has been nominated for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy.
She is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, appearing in numerous national and regional shows, commercials and industrials since 1999. She is also involved with various film organizations in Pittsburgh, including Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Film Industry Association (PAFIA). Daisy graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts and a Film Studies Certificate.

Sat., December 16 at 2:00 p.m.

Lindsay Ward, KDKA-TV News Anchor

Lindsay Ward is the Morning Anchor at KDKA-TV. She joined the station in 2019. Lindsay also does feature reporting for which she has won a first-place Keystone Media Award and has been Emmy-nominated for both her anchoring and reporting.
Lindsay is from Indiana County and an IUP graduate where she studied Communications Media and Political Science. She lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Tony, and their two children, Sebastian and Aurora.

Sat., December 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Boaz Frankel, KDKA-TV & Yinzer Backstage Series

Boaz Frankel is a writer, filmmaker and gardener based in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s the host and producer of NEXTpittsburgh’s “Yinzer Backstage Pass” series and a correspondent on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live. He lives in Squirrel Hill with his wife Brooke and their very cute terrier mutt, Kip.

Sun., December 17 at Noon p.m.

Kristine Sorensen, KDKA-TV News Anchor

Kristine Sorensen just celebrated 20 years with KDKA-TV and currently anchors KDKA-TV News at 4 and 5 pm. She also produces special reports in partnership with Kidsburgh.org on positive things in the community for kids and families, and she also hosted Pittsburgh Today Live for 11 years.
Kristine has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government with a minor in dance from the College of William and Mary. She has won numerous awards including a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award for Features Reporting, an Edward R. Murrow journalism award and the Paramount Impact Award for her volunteer work.
Kristine studied dance since she was a child and performed with dance companies for 10 years. She served on Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Board of Directors for ten years and was the dance critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She also volunteers her time with the March of Dimes, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Variety the Children’s Charity.
Kristine is married to KDKA Radio host Marty Griffin. They have two daughters, Sophia and Chloe, and a son, Vincent.

Thurs., December 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Scott Blasey, the Clarks

Scott Blasey is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Pittsburgh-based rock band the Clarks. Over their 34-year career the Clarks have performed all over the country, sold more than a million albums and toured with Steely Dan and John Mayer. They performed live on the Late Show with David Letterman, the 2009 NHL Winter Classic and the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Their music has been featured in movies and television shows, including the 2015 season premiere of The Simpsons.
In addition to his success with the band, Scott has found an audience as a solo artist. He’s released three albums and has opened shows for rock icons Neil Young and the Beach Boys. In 2004 Scott received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Service from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and in 2020 he was inducted into the Connellsville Area High School Hall of Fame. Scott continues to perform with the Clarks, and his “Songs and Stories” shows draw rave reviews and keep him busy as a solo performer.

Fri., December 22 at 7:00 p.m.

Ron Smiley, KDKA-TV Meteorologist

Ron is the meteorologist and contributor on Pittsburgh Today Live on weekday mornings. Since June 2015, Ron has been giving a local and hopefully bright outlook on the day in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
Born a Texan, Ron grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, after his dad retired from the Air Force. After graduating from Little Rock Catholic High, Ron pursued his degree at Arkansas Tech University. He has two daughters.
Before arriving in Pittsburgh, Ron worked in Mississippi and Arkansas, along with most recently, New Orleans and Indianapolis. He says that his love for the weather developed at a young age as he loved to hang out in the garden and talk clouds with his neighbor, Mr. Mike, an employee at the National Weather Service. Ron is a member of the American Meteorological Society and has been rewarded his AMS seal.
In Ron’s free time, he loves to cook and explore with his family. You may catch him out and about on a Saturday morning running for a good cause or hanging with his family at a local park or museum.

Sat., December 23 at 7:00 p.m.

Kyra Laubacher, Dance Media, Digital Editor

A proud Pittsburgh native, Kyra is the digital editor for Dance Magazine, Pointe and The Dance Edit with Dance Media Publications. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude from Butler University in 2020 with a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in English Literature. Following graduation, she danced with Eugene Ballet in Eugene, Oregon, and served as a contributing writer for Pointe prior to joining the magazine’s editorial staff in May 2022.

PBT Artists Childhood Nutcracker Memories

Drosselmeyer surrounded my jumping party children

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds, 

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”

For some children, those sugar-plums danced not only in their heads but also alongside them onstage. The Nutcracker is the first ballet in which most ballet dancers perform and many dancers hold treasured childhood memories of their first Nutcracker. We asked our company artists to share some of those memories:

Ariana Chernyshev – PBT Apprentice

Young Ariana in a blue dress
Young Ariana Chernyshev

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“My first experience with The Nutcracker was in 2008, and it was absolutely unforgettable! I was the Little Party Girl, which was an honor since only two girls from the youngest age division are selected for this role.” 

What school did you dance with at the time?

Currently a company apprentice, Ariana was trained from Pre-Ballet all the way through the Graduate program at PBT School.

What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I was fully enraptured by the sets, costumes, lights and the older dancers having their final moments to practice before the show. After my first entrance, my nerves transformed into pure elation and that first show of The Nutcracker became the memory that I hold in my heart as the moment I knew I would do anything to become a ballerina.

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

“As a young dancer performing child’s roles in The Nutcracker, I always wanted to be a Snowflake. I thought that the older dancers were so beautiful, graceful and powerful, especially with their gorgeous crowns and fluttery tutus.”

Caitlyn Mendicino – PBT Corps de Ballet

Young Caitlyn in a blue soldier uniform
Young Caitlyn Mendicino

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“My first performance of The Nutcracker was actually Terrence S Orr’s version (PBT’s current version); I was a little soldier. I wore the blue and white soldier costumes that we still use in PBT’s Nutcracker. Back then however we also had white masks we wore as well.”

What school did you dance with at the time?

 PBT School

What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I remember running through the castle on stage and thinking how intense the whole battle scene was and how proud I was to salute Marie.”

What was your favorite part of being in the performance?

“Definitely being on stage with my dance idol at the time, Ying Li.”

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

“I loved being on stage and being immersed in the story. When you’re so small you feel like you’re actually transported to a toy battlefield.”

Cecilia Hernandez – PBT Apprentice

Young Cecilia in a white angel costume
Young Cecilia Hernandez

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“In my first Nutcracker, I was 4 years old and I played a mouse in Act 1 and an angel in Act 2. As a mouse I wore a grey loose onesie with a hood that had the cutest mouse ears attached. And pictured is my Angel costume.”

What school did you dance with at the time?

“I danced with my home school, Nunnbetter Dance Theatre.”

 What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I can only remember kneeling on the side of the stage as an angel, watching the Sugar Plum Fairy dance, and being in awe.”

What was your favorite part of being in the performance?

“My favorite part of the performance was looking up at the older girls doing so many different roles. I don’t have many vivid memories from that very first Nutcracker performance but I can absolutely picture being backstage and watching the Sugar Plum Fairy that year preparing, talking to stagehands, and smiling. I think I was too young to know that’s exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but it makes sense that’s the only vivid memory I have.”

David O’Matz – PBT Corps de Ballet

Young David in a Nutcracker costume
Young David O’Matz

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“I played Fritz in Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh‘s production.”

What memories do you have of being onstage?

I wanted to keep the fact that I was in the production a surprise, so my whole family attended the performance in the audience and saw me onstage once the curtain rose.” 

What was your favorite part of being in the performance?

“It was fun to run around onstage, act, dance, and befriend other dancers backstage and throughout the rehearsal process. This is when I met Tommie O’Hanlon (PBT principal artist) for the first time!” 

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

“I found joy within both rehearsing and performing The Nutcracker. Every year I have experienced a new familiarity of performing the same ballet year after year, and joy to experience new roles and learn new parts. This all started with my first Nutcracker.” 

Diana Yohe – PBT Soloist

Young Diana in a green party dress
Young Diana Yohe

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“My very first Nutcracker was in 2004 with Pennsylvania Ballet (now known as Philadelphia Ballet) when they toured to Cleveland. It was George Balanchine’s version and I was a child in the party scene.”

What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I remember telling my parents every time about being lifted across the stage to reach for the Christmas tree by one of the company men.” 

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

That Nutcracker definitely inspired my passion for ballet and my career. I always try to remember how those kind company dancers changed the direction of my life when I do The Nutcracker each year with the kids! It really is all about them, and I think for the kid in all of us as well.”

JoAnna Schmidt – PBT Soloist

Young JoAnna Schmidt

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?
“My first performance in The Nutcracker was with Central Florida Ballet, when I was seven years old. I got to be a party girl and one of Mother Ginger’s bon bons! I hadn’t learned how to do a cartwheel yet, and that was part of the choreography for the bon bons. I remember my mom demonstrating one for me in our living room!”

What school did you dance at at the time?

Central Florida Ballet

What memories do you have of being onstage?
“This photo is from a couple years later. One of my favorite dancers and greatest mentors, Heather Fryxell, let me wear one of her tutus to promote the performances at a hotel, across the street from the theater.”

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?
“Even though I was simply walking around, taking photos, just getting to Look like the Sugar Plum Fairy was so magical to me. Now, with PBT, I get to fully step into that role, dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy in our production! It is my inner child’s dream come true!!!”

Join us this year to make your own memories of The Nutcracker and watch these little dancers – now all grown up -in PBT’s The Nutcracker this December! Performances will run December 8-28 at the Benedum Center. Find tickets here!

Putting Pittsburgh in The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker has enchanted audiences for over 130 years, telling the story of young Marie (renamed to match the original story) and her journey to a mystical land with her heroic nutcracker. There are hundreds of different versions of The Nutcracker performed all around the world. How does Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre set its Nutcracker apart?

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre makes its current version of the beloved classic uniquely Pittsburgh-connected by including more than 13 different “easter eggs” that only a true “yinzer” might catch. In 2002, former artistic director Terrence S. Orr conceived and choreographed this Pittsburgh-themed version of The Nutcracker and the company has performed this version each year since. Have you noticed any of these “easter eggs” before while watching PBT’s The Nutcracker?

Photographer: Rosalie O’Connor

1. Kaufmann’s Clock

Founded in the 1870s in downtown Pittsburgh, Kaufmann’s department store eventually expanded to nearly 60 locations across multiple states until it was bought by Macy’s. Today the original flagship building is left standing along with the iconic Kaufmann’s Clock, both deemed Historical Landmarks. Installed in 1913, the giant ornate timepiece has been known to be a meeting place for Pittsburghers for over 100 years. Spot PBT’s homage clock hanging above the proscenium arch.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

2. F.W. McKee Mansion

Marie Stahlbaum’s family home, where the opening party scene takes place, is a mansion modeled after the old F.W. McKee Mansion. On Fifth Avenue in Shadyside, this stately home was owned by the prominent McKee family, known for glass-manufacturing. The manor has since been torn down, but its memory lives on in PBT’s The Nutcracker.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

3. The Kaufmann, Grandview, and Heinz party guests

Aside from the hosting Stahlbaum family, PBT has invited three other families of note to the party, The Kaufmanns (owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store), The Grandviews (named for the avenue on Mt. Washington), and the Heinzes (founders of the H. J. Heinz Company). All three names hold a special place in Pittsburgh’s history.

Artists: Yoshiaki Nakano | Photographer: Rosalie O’Connor

4. Mr. McTavish and the Carnegie family plaid

Another important guest is Mr. McTavish, representing the famous Scottish Pittsburgher, Andrew Carnegie. In his appearance in the party scene, Mr. McTavish wears a kilt of the official Carnegie family plaid, a pattern PBT received express permission from the Carnegie family to use.

5. H. J. Heinz Company Logo

Not only is the Heinz family represented by party guests, but the H. J. Heinz Company Logo can be spotted on Drosselmeyer’s wagon in the opening scene

Students of PBT School | Rich Sofranko Photography, Rich Sofranko

6. Kaufmann’s Christmas Stories for Boys and Girls

Published in 1904, Kaufmann’s storybook served as part of Orr’s inspiration for the Pittsburgh Nutcracker, offering a window into a turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh Christmas. The storybook grows to giant proportions during the battle scene and produces a number of story-book characters to help Marie and the Nutcracker on their journey.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

7. Pirate and Penguin Dolls

Two of the dolls that come to life include a penguin carrying a hockey stick and a pirate. These dolls pay homage to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city’s baseball and hockey teams.

8. Terrible Towels

In addition to the pirate and penguin, the PBT rats pull out Terrible Towels (a popular local symbol of support for the Steelers) on days that both the show is performing and the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

9. Mount Washington Snow Scene

The famous snow scene is set atop Mt. Washington, looking down upon the Point and Pittsburgh’s three rivers. The image is set circa 1906, at about the time PBTs The Nutcracker takes place, offering a beautiful, vintage take on the scene.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

10. Birds and Butterflies

One of Pittsburgh’s treasures is the National Aviary. Once Marie and the Nutcracker arrive in the Land of Enchantment, some of the characters that greet them include birds and butterflies to represent the National Aviary.

Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & PBT School | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

11. Land of Enchantment Amusement Park

The Land of Enchantment is a feast for the eyes, full of bright colors and exciting characters. The set design includes a carousel canopy and figures along with a roller coaster design on the backdrop. These elements pay homage to Pittsburgh amusement parks including Kennywood and turn-of-the-century amusement park, Luna Park.

Not only can you spot these fun references, but this year keep your eyes peeled for some local celebrities on-stage:

Kym Gable (KDKA-TV Anchor) Friday, Dec. 8 @ 7:00pm
FRYZ (Rap artist) Friday, Dec. 9 @ 7:00pm
Giselle Fetterman (Former second Lady of PA) Sunday, Dec. 10 @ 4:30pm
Daisy Jade (KDKA-TV/Pittsburgh Today Livereporter) Friday, December 15 @ 7:00 p.m.
Lindsay Wade (KDKA-TV Anchor) Saturday, Dec. 16 @ 2:00pm
Boaz Frankel (KDKA and NEXTPittsburgh reporter) Saturday, Dec. 16 @ 7:00pm
Kristine Sorensen (Anchor on KDKA-TV) Sunday, Dec. 17 @ 12:00pm
Scott Blasey (Lead Singer of The Clarks) Thursday, Dec. 21 @ 7:00pm
Kyra Laubacher (Journalist at Pointe Magazine) Saturday, Dec. 23 @ 7:00pm

PBT is extremely proud to be part of the Pittsburgh community and to showcase its rich history. With performances throughout the entire month of December, there’s no better way to celebrate the holiday season than with family at PBT’s uniquely Pittsburgh rendition of The Nutcracker! Purchase tickets here!