OFFBEAT: Joffrey's 'Nutcracker' celebrates a talented 25th Anniversary run

December 11, 2012
Northwest Indiana Times
Philip Potempa


Only 22 performances for the 25th Anniversary run of Joffrey Ballet's annual visit of Robert Joffrey's "The Nutcracker" just aren't enough for this journey to the beautiful dance landscape of fantasy of fun.

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, is once again the holiday home for this annual favorite continuing until Dec. 27.

It was a quarter of a century ago when the curtains first rose on The Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 10, 1987 at the Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa, with the production then embarking on a national tour.

When Robert Joffrey choreographed "The Nutcracker," he replaced the traditional European setting with a 19th century American home, populating it with toys from his own childhood underneath the "Great Christmas Tree" of the Stahlbaum Family.

Today, his original production calls Chicago home, while combining classical grace with entertaining action with maintaining the purity of Robert Joffrey's original choreography sparkled with elegant costumes, an extravagant set (which by now, feels like a "second holiday home" for audiences) by Oliver Smith and of course, the favorite giant Mother Ginger puppet created by Kermit Love.

The story remains classic and true-to-form: Following a lively party on Christmas Eve, familiar characters Clara (played by Caitlin Meighan) and her mysterious godfather Dr. Drosselmeyer (Mauro Villanueva) embark on a magical adventure, encountering a battle between toy soldiers and legions of mice, before being whisked away with the Nutcracker Prince (Dylan Gutierrez) to an enchanted forest by the elegant Queen and King of Snow (Rory Hohenstein and Christine Rocas), then being delighted by an exotic array of dancing confections from the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy (April Daly).

Joffrey Ballet Co-Founder Gerald Arpino also contributed to Robert Joffrey's version, having choreographed the Land of the Snow scene, which closes Act I, and the Waltz of the Flowers in Act II.

"I danced with The Joffrey Ballet when this production was created in 1987," said Ashley C. Wheater, Joffrey Ballet artistic director, welcoming the audience on Friday's press night prior to the curtain rising.

"I remember our days in Iowa City, when we learned, rehearsed and, ultimately, premiered this ballet. Robert Joffrey's 'Nutcracker,' and in particular the first act party scene, is unique in its attention to detail. His 'Nutcracker' is a celebration of American Christmas traditions, as meaningful today as they were during their first performance in 1987. Whether you are seeing 'The Nutcracker' as a child for the first time, or grew up with the story, there is always something familiar and something brand new."

The Chicago Philharmonic, led by Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck, provides live accompaniment of the classic Tchaikovsky score for every performance.

Tickets are $31 to $132 at (800) 982-2787 or