Brittany Steck’s Take on the Sugar Plum Fairy

By Sophie Gordon

Fairy on Main Street

When she enters the building behind the railroad tracks on the riverfront, she grabs her tiara from her costume rack and heads to the back. She sits down in front of a mirror, tiara perched on her head, and begins to apply purple and pink eyeshadow to her face. From the corner of one eye, she sweeps downward and creates a large purple swirl. From the other eye she moves upward, pink spiraling above her eyebrow. Finally, she adds a line of silver on her eyelids to top off the effect.

Next, she replaces her pajama bottoms with black leggings and adds a layer of silver on top. She slips on her purple-layered skirt and fluffs up each layer, making sure it twirls when she spins. Her purple “pirate” jacket, which she laces shut over her silver-gray t-shirt, comes next; followed by her size seven boots. Her shoe size is only four but the sevens were a perfect look and the closest fit, so she slips on a pair of regular socks and a pair of thick, wool socks from Bass Pro Shop to keep her feet warm and prevent her boots from sliding off.

Finally, after the morning’s announcements, she grabs her wings. A lady snaps her wings in place and smiles. Then, the girl dressed head-to-toe in purple heads for the door, ready to start the day. She grabs her wand, a stack of character cards and heads out the door, leaving the girl who entered behind.

“My favorite part of being the Sugar Plum Fairy is probably spreading Christmas cheer to all of the people in St. Charles and seeing all of the kids and dancing with them,” Brittany says.

 

Where it began

Her journey to becoming the Sugar Plum Fairy starts in the basement of the St. Charles Visitors Bureau. Two ladies listen to Christmas music and keep track of the order of auditioners. Brittany Steck, a 16-year-old junior from North, approaches in a black dress with flower in her hair. They instruct her to retell “The Legend of the Candy Cane” in her own words but keep the same basic information. Brittany sits for 10 minutes, waiting for her turn, jotting notes down and reading the story over and over. Finally, they call her in.

“I felt very confident when I walked into my audition because I felt that I had left my house early enough to allow myself enough prep time,” Brittany says. “Honestly, there wasn’t enough time to be scared

or nervous because I knew it would show through, and I needed to put my best foot forward. I was auditioning for my dream job. I don’t know why I would be nervous anyways.”

She walks into a room where a group of women wait to see her performance. Among them is Christmas Traditions’ Artistic Director April McCandless, who casts each of the characters. On her mind is the fact that only 30 spots are open, yet more than 100 people are auditioning.

“Are you auditioning for a character or a caroler today?” McCandless asks.

Though Brittany is auditioning for a character, she decides to sing a song in addition to retelling the story because she knows it will give her “extra brownie points.” She waits for the go-ahead, then spins a silly story about the man who first put a candy cane on his Christmas tree. She points accusingly at her audience, pantomimes the creation of the candy cane’s hook and stretches on her tiptoes to hang up the Christmas lights.

Then she starts to sing.

“Halfway through her audition [we knew],” McCandless says. “She sang ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,’ and she was just adorable and so energetic. We had her do some other things to see how her improv skills were, and we asked her some questions. By the time she left, we were pretty sure that if we didn’t see anyone else that was better, she would get the part.”

While auditions continued, no other Sugar Plum Fairies came through the doors.

“I think we had a couple of people that we were like, ‘Well, maybe…’” McCandless says, “but she just stood out above and beyond everyone else. There really wasn’t any decision with her. Sugar Plum Fairy [is] very bouncy and bubbly and cheerful. Brittany just as Brittany really fit that mold. I don’t know how we knew she was right. She just was the Sugar Plum Fairy.”

Though a few formalities remained, the role of Sugar Plum Fairy was hers — her biggest role yet.

“I was so proud of her and so excited for her because not only did she make it to do this awesome Christmas Traditions, she actually got a huge part,” mother Cindy Steck says. “I think she’s perfect for the part. She is always very lively, smiley, jumping around.”

Her sister agreed.

“The Sugar Plum Fairy is supposed to be really energetic and that’s exactly what Brittany is. She always has lots of energy,” Bethany said.

 

The preparation

To prepare for her role, Brittany enlists the help of her family. Her grandmother Kathryn Merrell creates her costume, the entire purple outfit. Bethany assists in picking out the costume fabric and choosing makeup. Her mother acts as chauffeur, taking Brittany to each rehearsal, photo shoot and fitting.

“Santa couldn’t run Christmas all by himself, he needs his elves,” Brittany says. “And in the same way, my family has been like my own little workshop of elves because they’ve helped me get everything from my costume to the tiny details like my makeup. I really appreciate all of the help they’ve given me because this would not have been possible without their help.”

 

Fairyland

Brittany keeps her family in mind as she prances up and down the sidewalk, running from “horseless carriages.” A group of children approach and she grins, greeting them with a wave of her wand. She asks if anyone knows some new dances to use in the Land of the Sweets to create candy. When none of the kids answer, she takes it upon herself to teach them the “Lollipop Twist.”

She begins the lesson by placing “ribbons of sugar” on her hands and feet and encourages the children to do so as well. Once the ribbons are in place, she tells them to reach from the tips of their toes to above their heads twice. She pauses the second time their hands swing above their heads and asks a gentleman in the crowd to be her “sparkle conductor.” When the man agrees, she hands him her wand and instructs him to wave it around as she and the kids twirl, creating lollipops of their own. The process ends when the everyone throws their hands in the air and shouts “Merry Christmas!” as the sparkle conductor “sparkles” the group.

The rest of the day, she stops to talk with children, teaching them the “Tootsie Roll,” “Lollipop Twist,” or “Twizzler” dances, and hands them her character card, one of 35 kids can collect. She’s number 14. She smiles and wishes them a “wanderful Christmas and a sparkling new year.”

“She gave me high expectations, but I think she has risen to that and even a little bit beyond,” McCandless says. “I see her out there with little kids, teaching them how to dance, and spreading joy. She’s doing a great job out there. I’m pretty sure at the end she’s going to be everyone’s favorite.”

At six, the Sugar Plum Fairy heads back to the building where her day began. She immediately asks someone to “de-wing” her before moving to the back room to change. She shrugs out of her jacket, sets her wings safely in the corner of the room and changes back into her pajama pants. Then she sits in front of the mirror and takes her makeup off, revealing the face of a girl worn from a long day. Finally, she places her tiara and wand back on her costume rack, where they will sit until the Sugar Plum Fairy returns.