As told to Maggie FitzRoy
Anthony Egeln of Ponte Vedra Beach has portrayed Herr Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker production performed by the Christ Episcopal Church Dancers for five years. The father of three adult children, he supports the show, slated for Dec. 14 at the Lazzara Theater at the University of North Florida, because it gives children of all ages the opportunity to dance and because it supports children’s charities.
Q: How did you get the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, an important one in the opening party scene?
A: I’ve been in the show for 12 years, starting as an adult dancer. My son, Anthony Jr., was drafted to be a dancer because a girl needed a partner in the party scene. Then the girl’s mother decided she wanted to be in it, and she needed a partner, so I became her partner. Then, when the priest who played Drosselmeyer retired, I took the role.
Q: Had you ever performed before?
A: Yes, in my younger days I had done commercial acting and modeling and community theater.
A: The acting and modeling in Jacksonville, and the community theater in Delaware, where we lived before moving to Ponte Vedra Beach. My wife, Suzanne, and I and our children, Anna, Margaret and Anthony moved from Lewes, Delaware to Ponte Vedra Beach in 2005.
Q: Did your girls dance in The Nutcracker?
A: No, they danced when they were very young, then found athletics. Margaret was involved in both theater and chorus while at Ponte Vedra High School, however. She was a founding member of the Sharkapellas group.
Q: Is your wife, Suzanne, involved in The Nutcracker?
A: Yes, she is a quick-change artist backstage. She helps dancers change costumes. She’s a very important gear in that machine. Because some dancers can have up to five changes and they have to be very quick about it.
Q: Do you have to rehearse a lot for your role?
A: it’s a commitment of every Sunday for seven to eight weeks. For the dancers, mostly girls of all ages, it’s a year-round commitment. For the guest dancers, like myself, including some boys, it’s roughly eight weeks.
Q: Were you nervous the first time you danced onto the UNF stage?
A: No, because I had performed on stage before. You don’t pay attention to the audience. You just focus on the performance.
Q: Had you ever danced before?
A: No, none of the shows I’d been in had dancing parts. I did sing, including in “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” That was fun. I’d had no idea I had a voice. I took a voice lesson when I was in my late 40s and it turned out I did. I don’t sing now, I’ve gotten away from it.
Q: You are retired now; what was your career?
A: I was in the publishing business after college, then went on to a career as a Naval flight officer. After that, I was a stockbroker for a number of years. After moving to Ponte Vedra Beach, I founded the St. Augustine Woman’s Journal. I sold it a couple of years ago and am fully retired now.
Q: Why do you still dance in The Nutcracker?
A: Miss Felicia (Felicia Rhoden, the director and choreographer) is very difficult to say ‘no’ to. Also, it’s a commitment to the work she is doing. The show supports charities and it gives girl dancers an opportunity to perform. If they didn’t have guest performers like me, they couldn’t do it.
Q: Why do you think people should come to see it?
A: Number one, it brings you into the mood of the season. The color and the performance on stage is very delightful, the set and the costumes and the dancers. Two, because you will be supporting charities. We don’t have snow here. We don’t have sleigh rides here. The Nutcracker can help raise your Christmas spirit.