Broadway and Ballet Team up for Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker

When the news came that 2015 would be the last time the Joffrey Ballet would perform its namesake’s famed The Nutcracker, a collective “NOOOOOOO!” could be heard throughout Chicago. “What’s next? Closing the Walnut Room?” they cried. “They’ve already ruined the window displays. At least we still have the Christkindlmarket.”

Oh ye of little faith – this is the Joffrey, a company that is continuously evolving, respecting its classical foundation yet stretching the boundaries of what “ballet” means. The new production promises to be an entertaining marriage of the grace and beauty that defines the dance and the imaginative spectacle of Broadway.

This morning the creative team behind this new production was revealed at a press conference on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre, and it’s a roster of top talent. Imagined and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (An American In Paris), the tale is set during the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

“Don’t worry; I’m not stealing Christmas,” Wheeldon said. “The tree will still grow, children will still be mice, and snow will still fall.”

Christopher Wheeldon at press conference for Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker

One of the effects this has on the storyline is that Clara is, instead of a privileged child in a wealthy househould, the daughter of an immigrant who works at the fair. The change in setting also allows the dances from around the world to have a more natural place in the narrative, as they’ll be at a World Exposition.

The man behind the narrative for this production is Brian Selznick, the Caldecott Medal Award-winning author of the fantastical The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Julian Crouch, who was nominated for a Tony for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will bring his costume and set design skills to the team. Five-time Tony winner Natasha Katz will light up the stage, and Obie and Drama Desk Award-Winning puppeteer Basil Twist will be pulling the strings.

Brian Selznick at press conference for Joffrey Balley's The Nutcracker

With this creative team, and the support of the city and its patrons fully behind this world premiere, Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker is poised to be a new classic that will enthrall the next generation while still charming fans of the company’s more traditional production.

The overall feeling from the press conference was one of absolute joy. The entire team is passionately excited about creating a new tradition that will showcase all of their strengths. For the dancers themselves this is a dream come true. April Daly, who hails from Rockford and has danced in every one of Wheeldon’s Joffrey productions, said that they had hoped that the choreographer would create a dance designed for them. Merry Christmas, April!

The Nutcracker will be performed December 10 – 30, 2016, at the Auditorium Theater, 50 E Congress Pkwy. Tickets are on sale now at joffrey.org/nutcracker.

All photos Todd Rosenberg


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