The good doctor
Snellville physician takes stage for 16th year in 'The Nutcracker'

Dr. John West carries his medical bag to the set of Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker," but the bag isn't a prop, even though the character West plays is presumed to be a physician.

"If something were to happen during the performance either to a performer or an audience member, I have a defibrillator, oxygen and emergency drugs," said West, who practices family medicine in Snellville. "It gives me that one little opportunity to step in before other emergency help can arrive, and certainly that can sometimes be life-saving."

West plays the role of Dr. Silberhaus, Clara and Fritz's father, in the classic, magical tale of a toy nutcracker that comes to life. West got his start in the ballet when his daughter, Katie, was cast in "The Nutcracker" 16 years ago, and he has continued to perform in the annual holiday production since, even though Katie has graduated.

"I was asked if I wanted to be a performer, and I said yes," said West, a third-generation physician. "It was something for my daughter and me to experience together. But I had no idea how much I would enjoy it."

West was on call, per se, when a performer got too close to the edge of the stage during a fight scene in rehearsal recently and fell off, injuring his foot when he landed.

"I came running out and went over and we got him taken care of," West said.

The performer's foot wasn't broken, only bruised and sore.

In addition to his acting duties and the medical care he provides when needed, West said he serves as a sort of on-stage director, as well.

"After all these years, I know everyone's part, where everything should be and what should happen next," West said. "I try to help others on stage, watch for problems and make sure everything is running smoothly.

"I look forward to it each year," West added. "It's something completely different from what I do on a daily basis."

GBT's production of "The Nutcracker," in its 27th season, features a cast of 80 ballet students and 22 pre-professional company members, as well as a number of adult performers, including West. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 21 at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

The ballet will be performed to the accompaniment of the Gwinnett Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

SideBar: If You Go

What: "The Nutcracker," presented by the Gwinnett Ballet Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 21

Where: Gwinnett Performing Arts Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth

Cost: $27 for adults, $22 for students and seniors, and $18 for groups of ten or more

For more information: Visit www.gwinnettballet.org or call 770-978-0018