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Circus family brings Nutcracker to life at North Okanagan’s Caravan

Popular winter sleigh ride show nearly sold out already
The Mouse King (Colin Heath), Marie (Lili Beaudoin), mouse (Jayka Mayne) and the Nutcracker (Ruaridh MacDonald) play out a scene from The Nutcracker, which is being brought to life at Caravan Farm Theatre Dec. 5 to Jan. 7. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Who better to tell a story steeped in family tradition, theatrics, imagination and action than one born literally from circus school.

Ernst T.A. Hoffman’s holiday classic The Nutcracker plays out across the vast 70 acres of Caravan Farm Theatre from Dec. 5 to Jan. 7.

Nearly sold-out tickets prove how popular the winter sleigh ride show is, with its unique magical outdoor performance, led by heavy horses pulling audiences around to the different sets.

This theatrical journey is a redux of the 2019 Nutcracker show, returned with director Manon Beaudoin, with her husband Colin Heath and their daughter Lili Beaudoin starring in the show.

Heath humourously plays the original seven-headed Mouse King, mimicking an array of different evil mouse laughs and snickers.

Lili is the original Marie (changed to Clara in more recent productions) with her prized Christmas toy, the Nutcracker (played by Ruaridh MacDonald).

“Colin and I met at the national circus school,” said Manon. “So we were in Cirque for many years.”

Along with Lili, they left a trail of children across the country.

But coming to Caravan is a family tradition of their own, spanning many years of summer productions and now their fifth winter show.

“Caravan has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” recalls 31-year-old Lili, from Vancouver, while her parents are based in the East coast.

Manon adds: “It’s such a circus tradition travelling as a family.”

Living in the cabins on the beautiful Spallumcheen farm theatre, the family works hard with a talented production team and the horse teamsters, to deliver a magical seasonal experience.

After adapting and directing The Nutcracker four years ago, Manon has added in fun twists and turns to the 2023/24 show.

“We are just trying to create that beautiful magic we had,” said Manon, adding the show is part cabaret, theatre, comedy, acrobatics and mystery. “It’s really cuckoo.”

“It’s like a charcuterie platter of entertainment,” adds Lili.

Like her family, Caravan attracts artists from all over Canada to be part of something truly unique.

“I’ve never seen anything like (Caravan), it’s extraordinary, it’s a treasure,” said Manon, calling it one, if not her number one, favourite place.

This show in particular offers something no one else can offer.

“I have worked with Cirque for years and have never seen an acrobatic number like this outside,” said Manon.

“There’s no other place that does this,” said Heath, who has also written plays for Caravan, such as Apple Orchard.

It takes more than 60 people to pull it all off, including 22 horses, ramping up to three shows a night for six days a week.

“It’s hard work, but the audience gives you energy too,” said Heath, adding they all sleep well at the end of the days.

READ MORE: What’s happening around the North Okanagan

READ MORE: Nutcracker sleigh ride returns to Spallumcheen theatre

Actors play out the fight scene from The Nutcracker, which is being brought to life at Caravan Farm Theatre Dec. 5 to Jan. 7. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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