The Nutcracker

December 11, 2010
REVIEW by Steadstyle Chicago
Tyler Tidmore


Since 1996 The Joffrey Ballet has wowed Chicago audience members young and old with their beautiful production of Robert Joffrey's “The Nutcracker”, America's #1 “Nutcracker”.  Becoming a holiday tradition for most Chicago families, Joffrey's “Nutcracker” continues to impress audiences as it takes them to an enchanted winter wonderland.  Based on E.T.A Hoffman's early 19th century German tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the late Robert Joffrey's original production of his Chicago famous ballet focuses on Hoffman's classic story-line along with a few spectacles of imagination brought to life.

The first Act begins on a cold Christmas Eve during the 1850s.  Mayor and Mrs. Stahlbaum prepare for a upcoming party while their children, Clara and Fritz, run through the house with enthusiasm as they rejoice over the Christmas tree and gifts beneath it.  Soon the guests arrive with even more gifts to present, the last to arrive however is the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer, Clara and Fritz's godfather.  Live toys and dolls fill the room as Dr. Drosselmeyer brings them all to life for the children.  After all the excitement wears down, the Doctor gives Clara a very special gift, a nutcracker.  At the jealousy and motive to tease his sister, Clara's brother Fritz breaks the doll by accident.

Later as everyone is in bed, Clara sneaks down to the Christmas tree to enjoy her nutcracker for a few more moments.  Interrupted by some scurrying mice, Clara becomes frightened until Dr. Drosselmeyer comes to shew them away.  After transforming the nutcracker into a life-size nutcracker doll, the Doctor takes Clara to the battleground of magical toys and mice.  Led by the infamous Mouse King, the mice do their best in destroying their opponent but at the sacrifice of the nutcracker doll, all is saved.  Clara looks upon the defeated nutcracker and gives him a kiss on the cheek which magically revives him.  Drosselmeyer leads the nutcracker and Clara to the Land of Snow where they meet the Snow King and Queen.  Act one ends with some incredible ballet dancing.

In a nutshell that is the story behind Act one and pretty much the whole show.  Now this ballet is presented in two acts, the second act however contains very little story focusing more on the talented dancers.  Being a ballet, there is no dialogue in this production.  The dancers' use of facial expressions and body language allow them to tell the story through their actions and not their words.  Featuring Joffrey Ballet artists Matthew Adamczyk, Ricardo Santos, April Daly, Mauro Villanueva, and many other extremely talented performers, “The Nutcracker” is brought from imagination to life in this elegant production.

The production was originally directed by Robert Joffrey himself, with original choreography by Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino and music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  The Chicago Sinfonietta returns to delight audiences with their marvelous taste for sound, with guest conductor Tito Munoz.  The over-all design of this show was very enthralling, everything from costumes to set design had a hint of winter atmosphere.  The dancing toys and sweets looked much like they had just jumped out of E.T.A. Hoffman's storybook onto the stage.  A job well done to the team behind this production.

If you're trying to decide what glamorous Christmas holiday show to take your family too, The Joffrey's “Nutcracker” is sure to be a family hit.  The first act will definitely entertain the younger patrons of the show, the second act however may not be able to hold their attention.  The second act focuses much more on the dancing rather than the story.  Not saying there is no chance for enjoyment, in my opinion ballet is just an acquired taste.  As for all those ballet lovers in Chicago, this show is for you.  For more information, visit the Theatre in Chicago Nutcracker page.