By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer
Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker premiered Dec. 1 at the Auditorium Theater.
The production is an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, but with a Chicago twist. The ballet takes place in Chicago during the building of the World’s Fair in 1892. The story follows the same plotline as the original Nutcracker, as the protagonist—who is named Marie—is led through a dreamland adventure.
The ballet maintains a dreamlike visage throughout. The production features eccentric dancers like The Great Impresario and the Rat Catcher, who both leave a lasting impression on the events of the play. The Great Impresario joins Marie’s family and the rest of the immigrant workers of the fair for a Christmas celebration, gifting Marie a Nutcracker. The juxtaposition between the simple family celebration in 1892 again an elaborate fantasy sequences amplifies the otherworldly grandeur.
The set design features a combination of real elements and projections, creating elaborate and believable scenery. The staging is especially breathtaking during a frozen scene with a company of dancers in ice blue costumes, as snow falls from above, both digitally and physically. Once The Great Impresario takes Marie and to rescue her kidnapped brother from The Rat King, they are transported to The Dream Fair. There, the Queen of the Fair and groups of dancers from around the world are introduced. The audience was particularly impressed by the complex pas de deux with Arabian Dancers. The Great Impresario’s elegant and precise dance with The Queen of the Fair also received great praise. Child dancers were also applauded as mini Nutcrackers and mini walnuts.
Award winning design
The design is so good, it is the subject of an award-winning documentary, Making a New American Nutcracker, produced by WTTW and The Joffrey Ballet.
The documentary was honored in November with a 2018 Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award in the category of Best Documentary, Cultural.
Making a New American Nutcracker—which premiered in 2017 on WTTW11 and the companion website—was also offered to PBS stations nationwide for the upcoming holiday season.
“It was an unforgettable and inspiring experience to work with the talented people at the Joffrey on this unique production, which preserved the magical quality of the original story while also shining a spotlight on the vital role that local immigrants played in the creation of the Fair,” said Andries.
The documentary will return to WTTW11 and WTTW Prime during the holiday season beginning Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. The documentary can also be viewed at any time through the PBS/WTTW video app or on wttw.com.