Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

When he took up ballroom dancing a couple of years ago, Sonora resident Lars Johnson never dreamed he would find himself doing ballet on stage for an audience of about 1,200 people.

But that's exactly what he'll be doing, for the second time, in Studio 4 Dance Theater's production of "The Nutcracker" this weekend at the Bret Harte High School Theater in Angels Camp.

Last year Johnson stepped in as the Cavalier and learned how to dance as partner to the ballet's prima ballerina, the Sugar Plum Fairy. This year he'll be doing that part as well as portraying Drosselmeyer, Clara's mysterious godfather who brings the Nutcracker to life and takes Clara and her prince on a magical journey to the Land of Sweets.

Johnson was recruited for 'The Nutcracker" last year by Brook Moes, who played Drosselmeyer for many years but had to step away this year to prepare for the addition of three Polish children, all siblings, to his current family of seven kids.

Several of the Moes children have been in the show every year and will be appearing this year as well.

"It's fun to be part of such a high quality production," said Johnson. "We all work hard together and by the time the show comes around, we're like one big family."

This year's production features more than 50 dancers, ages 3 to 50.

Johnson, 27, enjoys acting as big brother to many of the younger dancers. When he's not dancing ballet, Johnson is a pressman for The Union Democrat and keeps up with his ballroom dancing - he took three first places with his partner Evelyn Mainguth at the Pacific Grand Ball in San Mateo this past September.

With vibrant sets, colorful costumes, kid-pleasing special effects and the memorable music of Tchaikovsky, the fifth annual production of "The Nutcracker" is a budding holiday tradition in the Gold Country. Studio 4 Dance Theater treats audiences to a unique new show each year while staying true to the magical tale of Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, and their Christmastime adventures.

The production is swiftly paced at two hours, which includes intermission with holiday refreshments. There will be a "meet and greet" for photos and autographs with the Sugar Plum Fairy afterSaturday's matinee performance.

Artistic Director Tammie Lee tailors the choreography each year to showcase the skills of her ballet students at Studio 4 School of Dance in Vallecito.

This year's production features Fiona Swift of Angels Camp as Clara and Katelyn Smith of Arnold as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

San Andreas resident Teagan Maddux will portray the Snow Queen, Victoria Moes of Angels Camp will be the Mouse Queen, and Jesse Campbell of Murphys will appear as the Dew Drop Fairy.

Angels Camp's Ethan Moes returns as the Nutcracker Prince and Sonora resident Lars Johnson returns as both Drosselmeyer and the Cavalier.

Two new characters being introduced this year are Molly Johnson as the Ice Queen and Ethan Moes as Drosselmeyer's Nephew.

In addition to a supporting grant from the Calaveras Community Foundation, many local businesses and families have stepped up to sponsor this year's event.

Performance times are 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 1 and 6 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under.

Almost all shows sold out last year. Tickets are available on the internet at or by calling 800-595-4849.

Tickets may be purchased by cash or check at the box office one hour before each performance if the show is not sold out.