OFFBEAT: Joffrey's 'Nutcracker' a beautiful journey into imagination

December 15, 2010
REVIEW by Northwest Indiana Times
Phil Potempa

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It's The Joffrey Ballet's 23rd anniversary of Chicagoland's most popular family holiday dance event.

For more than 20 years, the magical experience of Robert Joffrey's production of "The Nutcracker" has captured the hearts and minds of audiences of all ages.

This year's run, which continues until Dec. 26, has an extra special hold on the wide eyes that await this annual tradition.

Now playing at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, it features the expansive Joffrey Ballet company, with bonus talent abounding from local children's choruses and more than 120 young dancers.

This season's performances are dedicated to the late Richard Ellis, who danced the role of Drosselmeyer for 27 years in Ruth Page's production of the ballet.

The Chicago Sinfonietta, the official orchestra of The Joffrey Ballet, under the baton of The Joffrey's Music Director Scott Speck, provides live musical accompaniment of the beloved Tchaikovsky score.

The production features nothing-short-of-stunning scenic design by Oliver Smith, lighting by Jack Mehler and the annual show-stopping trademark giant puppet of Mother Ginger and her "filled with surprises" flowing dress designed by Kermit Love.

The Joffrey's uniquely American production of "The Nutcracker" is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's early 19th century German tale "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." 

This distinctly original production of the holiday classic combines classical elegance with thrilling explosive action, set amidst lavish period costumes and spectacular scenery depicting Victorian America in the 1850s.

Snowflakes and flowers dominate the stage in a celebration of dance, as toys come joyfully to life amidst familiar characters such as Clara (played with grace and beauty by Anastacia Holden), her mischievous brother Fritz (who, played by Ricardo Santos, gives this role his everything), along with the King and Queen of the glorious Land of Snow, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the warring Mice led by the Mouse King, the Nutcracker Prince and the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer.

This production is mesmerizing holiday magic for audiences of any age.

Gerald Arpino, co-founder and artistic director emeritus of The Joffrey Ballet, choreographed the Land of the Snow scene, which closes Act I, and the Waltz of the Flowers in Act II.

Choirs also delight audiences with popular seasonal selections in the Auditorium Theatre's main lobby 30 minutes prior to curtain and during intermissions at every performance.

Tickets range from $30 to $115 at (800) 982-2787  or joffrey.org.