SCRANTON -- A post-Christmas tradition almost forty years in the making began Thursday: The Ballet Theatre of Scranton's production of the Nutcracker.
Organizers call it their annual Christmas gift to the community. It's a gift that takes a lot of preparation for dozens of dancers.
Outside the Performing Arts Center at Marywood University, it was organized chaos as hundreds of people line up, sometimes an hour ahead to get inside.
"It's a Christmas tradition. It is, it's a Christmas tradition."
Inside and backstage, there was organized chaos, too, as dozens of dancers warm up, preparing for their first of several shows. They are dancers from the Ballet Theatre of Scranton and some of them have been part of the Nutcracker production for more than a decade like George Mehalchick, who's making this year number 17.
"You've got to see the looks on all the children's faces and the people who come and the lines that are here. Personally, I now have a 6-year-old grandson and 4-year-old granddaughter who are in the audience today,” Mehalchick said.
When everyone is in their seats, the lights come up, and the music starts, Mehalchick says nothing beats it. He's only on stage for a few minutes but he says it doesn't feel like Christmas without it.
In order to prepare, the dancers start rehearsing in October but really, some of those dancers have been performing the Nutcracker their entire lives.
"It's really exciting but it's also sad because my entire life has been here, so it will be weird to go away and not be doing this all the time,” said dancer Megan Monahan.
Dancers Megan Monahan and Mila Torre have been dancing in the Nutcracker, literally, for as long as they remember. They think it’s been 14 years, and they're seniors in high school now.
"We've been practicing since, like, October, every day, for at least three hours,” Torre said.
The dancers have come and gone, but the show keeps going. For 38 years the Ballet Theatre of Scranton has performed the Nutcracker for free.
"It's a great show for everybody; people of all ages love it. It's a great show to do especially for the kids. We get a great reaction from them, it's awesome,” Monahan added.
It's a tradition for both the dancers and those watching.