SPRING VALLEY — "The Nutcracker" is a family affair.
Ever since the San Francisco Ballet started this American holiday tradition, children of all ages have been enjoying "Nutcracker" Christmases, along with their candy canes and visits to Santa Claus.
The Spangler family of Spring Valley is extending that tradition to the other side of the footlights. When the San Francisco Ballet unveils its production of "The Nutcracker" on Wednesday at the San Diego Civic Theatre (the first imported "Nutcracker" to grace a local stage), six members of this talented family will be among the huge cast.
From 7-year-old Megan, who pops out of Mother Ginger's skirts in the Kingdom of the Sweets, to father Donald, a street sweeper in the prologue, the family will be well-represented in this elaborate staging. They are part of a 70-member San Diego contingency selected to augment the professional cast of the San Francisco Ballet.
Fourteen-year-old Charity, a nine-year veteran of ballet school, was as surprised as anyone when she and all four of her sisters were accepted.
"It was my mother's idea to try out for the auditions, but I didn't think we were all going to be chosen," she said. "It's a really neat experience to dance in this together."
Due to a paucity of boys in the cast, Charity's twin sister, Sarilee, will don male attire and be Charity's partner in the second act Candy Land scene.
"I'm so excited about having this experience," she said. "All of us have been taking lessons at the Ballet Conservatory in Spring Valley, but we've never danced in a professional production. I'm really serious about being a dancer."
Summer, the eldest of the brood at 17, will dance a mime part in the prologue and reappear as a mouse to do battle with the toy soldiers. Summer, too, is determined to make ballet her career, but she has her sights on teaching.
For 10-year-old Autumn, this performance with the San Francisco Ballet is "very special," but Megan admits to being "sort of shy" about her debut. Nevertheless, with two years of training behind her, and the rest of the gang for support, even the baby in the family is gung-ho about appearing.
Dad showed up to volunteer his services, as he has for years at the Ballet Conservatory. But Spangler never thought he would end up on stage.
"I had originally offered to work backstage. I thought it would be a good experience," he said. "I worked behind the scenes before, and I was more than willing to help out. Then it turned out they needed someone for the street sweeper--and I fit the costume," he added with a chuckle.
The only Spangler who hasn't gotten into the act this time is mother Debbie, but she chauffeurs the gang to rehearsals and back.
The Spangler family is new to "The Nutcracker" experience, but this isn't the first time the family will perform together.
"We try to do everything together," said Donald Spangler.