Review of the Joffrey Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre
by Sharon Vacek
The Nutcracker is a delight for all ages capable of captivating the audience and whisking them into a fantasy land where toys magically come to life, troubles are few and fleeting, and a nutcracker can be transformed into a prince. The performance showcases the multi-talented Joffrey ballet company as they incorporate everything from playfulness to sensuality, grace and elegance into their movements. Acting skills also come into play as they effectively tell this universally known and loved holiday story. The dance company is definitely up for the task and offers a delightful audience-pleasing performance. Adding greatly to the enjoyment is the beautiful and unforgettable music of Tchaikovsky, directed with passion by Scott Speck. The cast also includes over one hundred children who add their own skill and charm to the Nutcracker as they act as mice, soldiers, dolls and snow tree angels.
As the curtain opens, it is the 1850s and guests are making their way to a Christmas Eve party at the opulent Victorian-style home of Mayor and Mrs. Stahlbaum. The party takes place in the parlor where the family is already gathered, including the children, Clara and her playful and mischievous brother Fritz. The guests arrive bearing gifts, including a nutcracker brought by the last guest, the children’s godfather Drosselmeyer, a mysterious man with a cape who appears to have magical abilities. It is a joyful social occasion, but the real magic happens when the guests depart and most of the family is in bed. That’s when Clara returns to the parlor at midnight to retrieve her nutcracker and mice begin to play and tease her; luckily, godfather Drosselmeyer is there to chase them away. Like magic, the parlor fades away and the family Christmas tree grows and grows, reaching the sky and transitioning the stage into an outdoor scene. The soldiers under the tree come to life and begin battling the mice. Just as it seems that the mice are taking over and are going to destroy the nutcracker, Clara throws her shoe at the Mouse King and saves the nutcracker. With a kiss from Clara, the nutcracker then becomes her prince.
The magic continues, and one of the most enchanting scenes is Scene Three when Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are led by Drosselmeyer into the Land of Snow where they meet the Snow King and the Snow Queen. As the King and Queen dance a graceful and exquisite ballet, glistening “snow” falls from the sky. The scene is so breathtakingly beautiful that it leaves the audience in awe.
The skill of the dancers is also apparent as they portray dolls and toy soldiers coming to life. The stiff and jerky movements of the toy soldiers were in sharp contrast to the relaxed and floppy movements of the dolls which emerge as toys stuffed in holiday boxes, come to life for a brief time and then return to their original state. Highlights were the sensual dance “Coffee from Arabia” featuring sky-high lifts and amazing displays of flexibility; “Tea from China” was also a delight as a dance duo popped out of a giant tea pot to perform a whimsical dance in festive costume. An additional audience pleaser was “Nougats from Russia,” a playful dance filled with leaps and spins; of course, the Grand Pas de Deux where the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance is an exquisite display of skill, grace and athleticism, as are the individual performances of both principal dancers.
The Joffrey’s performance of the Nutcracker continues through December 28, 2014 at the Auditorium Theatre. For further details, visit www.joffrey.org
THE JOFFREY BALLET Warms the Season with its ANNUAL Holiday CLASSIC, ROBERT JOFFREY’S
At Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre, December 5 – 28, 2014
CHICAGO (November 4, 2014) – The Joffrey Ballet celebrates the 27th annual presentation of Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker, Chicago’s most popular holiday tradition, in a 24-performance engagement at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, December 5 – 28.
When Robert Joffrey choreographed The Nutcracker in 1987, he replaced the traditional European setting with a 19th century American home, populating it with toys from his own childhood. From there, familiar characters Clara and the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer embark on an incredible adventure. Following a festive Christmas Eve celebration at the home of the Stahlbaums, Clara soon finds herself in the midst of a battle between a legion of mice and the heroic toy soldiers, led by the Nutcracker, where she unexpectedly saves the day. To reward her bravery, the Snow King and Queen whisk Clara (accompanied by her uncle Drosselmeyer) away to an enchanted forest and then the Kingdom of Sweets, where the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy delights them with an array of exotic dancing confections.
The Joffrey Nutcracker maintains the classical purity of Robert Joffrey’s original choreography while sparkling with elegant costumes, an extravagant set by Oliver Smith and a giant Mother Ginger puppet by Kermit Love. Joffrey Ballet Co-Founder Gerald Arpino 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.
The full Joffrey company is joined onstage by local children’s choruses and over 118 young dancers from Chicago and beyond. The Chicago Philharmonic, conducted by Scott Speck, provides live accompaniment of the classic Tchaikovsky score for every performance.
The Joffrey Ballet performs The Nutcracker at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre through Sunday, December 28. The full schedule is: Friday, Dec. 5, 7 pm; Saturday, Dec. 6, 2 pm and 7 pm; Sunday, Dec. 7, 2 pm; Thursday, Dec. 11, 7 pm; Friday, Dec. 12, 7 pm; Saturday, Dec. 13, 2 pm and 7 pm; Sunday, Dec. 14, 1 pm and 6 pm; Thursday, Dec. 18, 7 pm; Friday, Dec. 19, 7 pm; Saturday, Dec. 20, 2 pm and 7 pm; Sunday, Dec. 21, 2 pm and 7 pm; Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2 pm and 7 pm; Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2 pm; Friday, Dec. 26, 2 pm and 7 pm; Saturday, Dec. 27 at 2 pm and 7 pm; and Saturday, Dec. 28 at 2 pm.
Tickets range from $32 to $134 and are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University box office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2014-15 Season Sponsors and Partners. With special thanks to Presenting Corporate Sponsor, Wells Fargo; Presenting Sponsors, pamella roland and Fox Ford Lincoln; Co-Sponsors of the 2014-2015 Season: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago and NIB Foundation; New Work Presenting Sponsor, The Anne and Burt Kaplan Fund of the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation; Official Airline, United Airlines; Official Provider of Physical Therapy, Athletico; Official Hotel, JW Marriott; and Official Health Club, Chicago Athletic Clubs. The Joffrey Ballet would also like to recognize the generous support of the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation.
For more information about The Joffrey Ballet and its programs visit joffrey.org.
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