“The Nutcracker” celebrates holiday season and Chicago charm

By Taylor Hartz

December 4, 2017

The holiday season is officially upon us now that the Joffrey Ballet has raised the curtain on their holiday masterpiece “The Nutcracker.” The seasonal classic debuted at 7p.m. on Dec. 1, at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, giving the age old story a local twist. For the second year, Joffrey’s “The Nutcracker” takes place in 1893 Chicago, during the World’s Columbian Expedition. 

“The Nutcracker” at The Joffrey Ballet | Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Before welcoming the talented cast to the stage, Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater described the show by saying “our city is its star.”

Throughout the show, the design features a magical combination of decorative set pieces, beautiful lighting, and captivating video sequences that bring 19th century Chicago to life. As the dancers began to tell the tale of an adventurous, magical Christmas Eve dream, the audience catches sight of their city as it was more than a century ago – preparing to host the most grand, extravagant fair the world had ever seen.

The World’s Fair is reimagined on stage by The Great Impresario of the Fair, danced by Miguel Angel Blanco of Havana, Cuba.

As the whimsical, loveable young character of Marie, danced by Brazilian Amanda Assucena, drifts off to sleep, the city of Chicago is transformed into a winter wonderland. The Act I concludes with an ensemble of graceful snowflake dancers in exquisite costumes who captivate the audience as a glittering snow falls down around them, hitting the stage with a lifelike pitter patter that makes the magical scene seem even more enchanting. 

The stage came to life in Act II as the dreamers entered the vibrant, lively World’s Fair. The dream follows an adventure through the fair’s many exhibits, meant to showcase cultures from across the globe. A dance set in Asia features enormous dragon puppets, while a duo in an arabian themed number perform an acrobatic twisting dance.

Breaking the spell of grace and beauty is a dance set in the Wild Wild West world of Buffalo Bill who drew whistles and shouts from the crowd with his comical lasso maneuvers.

“The Nutcracker” at The Joffrey Ballet | Photo by Cheryl Mann.

As the dream goes on, Assucena is enchanting in her dream-like state alongside the charming Peter, apprentice to the fair’s impresario, danced by Alberto Velazquez, also of Havana, Cuba. 

The performance also follows the story of Marie’s mother, a sculptress for the fair danced by Victoria Jaiani who danced the role of Giselle in the ballet of the same name with Joffrey in October. The mother’s story unfolds in Marie’s dreams with Jaini dressed in a breathtaking gold dress meant to symbolize the fair’s iconic Statue of the Republic. When Marie awakens, we learn that their love story has followed them back to reality in Chicago.

This Joffrey production delivers the perfect combination of a classic tale while celebrating the beauty of Chicago and the magnificence of the World’s Fair, with an enchanting touch of the holiday spirit.

The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 30 at the Auditorium Theater. Tickets are available online or at the box office. 

“The Nutcracker” at The Joffrey Ballet | Photo by Cheryl Mann.

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