Since the late 1960s, “The Nutcracker” has been among the American holiday season’s most popular entertainment offerings. With the worst of the pandemic past (we hope), the abundance will be reflected on East Coast stages this year, with a variety of companies that put their own twists on the timeless story.
The two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Dec.18, 1892. Its libretto was adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 dark fantasy tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King.
The San Francisco Ballet did the first American performance on Christmas Eve in 1944, and 10 years later, George Balanchine adapted the ballet for the New York City Ballet; after the performance was aired on national television in 1957 and 1958, the ballet became a mainstream holiday staple in the United States.
Here are some traditional and non-traditional options certain to make your holiday season magical.
The Washington Ballet
The Washington Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” with choreography by Septime Webre, is at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW, in Washington, D.C., through Dec. 30. It has become the signature Nutcracker of the nation’s capital.
This production is set in historic 1882 Georgetown with George Washington, King George III, and other historical figures. Set to Tchaikovsky’s score, the classic comes to life with intricate, stunning set designs, period costumes, and more than 100 dancers including students and trainees from The Washington School of Ballet.
Visit https://www.washingtonballet.org for more information.
The Hip Hop Nutcracker
“The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” which translates Tchaikovsky’s score into the language of hip-hop dance, is celebrating its 10th anniversary season. Innovative visual effects transform the landscape from traditional 19th century Germany to the vibrant, diverse sights and sounds of modern urban life in New York City. The production features all-star contemporary and hip-hop dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and Kurtis Blow, one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, who opens the show.
The 2022 East Coast Tour includes performances in Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Visit ttps://hiphopnutcracker.com/ for more information.
The Moscow Ballet
The Moscow Ballet’s internationally touring ballet group performs “Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet” in more than 75 North American cities annually. On the East Coast, the 30th anniversary tour includes Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
The company’s renowned principal dancers and corps de ballet features romantic costumes amid shimmering backdrops adorned with highlights of Russian history. In this version, Act II is renamed “Land of Peace and Harmony;” featuring a rose-shooting cannon and a “Dove of Peace” with a 20-foot wingspan. There are puppets, too, including an African elephant, an Asian dragon, a Slavic bear, and a new-this-year flock of eight puppet doves on sticks.
Visit Https://www.nutcracker.com/ for more information.
Miami City Ballet
The Miami City Ballet presents “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®” with a cast of more than 100 dancers and children in lavish costumes, as well as a live orchestra. While this version retains the magic of Balanchine’s choreography and power of Tchaikovsky’s score, it adds the artistic influence of local Cuban-American artists Isabel and Ruben Toledo.
“The story’s links between the mystical human imagination, the language of dreams, and the power of transformation influenced our designs, and allowed us to imagine worlds of moonlit landscapes, frozen wonders, and a light-filled Caribbean paradise, reflecting our Cuban heritage,” Ruben Toledo said.
Performances take the stage in two different centers for the performing arts: the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami (Dec. 16-24) and the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach (Dec. 28-30).
Visit www.miamicityballet.org/ for more information.
Puppet Co. Playhouse
The 34th annual Puppet Co. production of “The Nutcracker” is at the Puppet Co. Playhouse through Jan. 1 in historic Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Maryland. This time-honored seasonal show features a cast of handmade hand puppets and marionettes, and larger-than-life costumed characters, and combines the familiar story of Clara and her prince with some distinctively Puppet Co. nursery rhyme spin.
Originated by the Puppet Co. founders Allan Stevens, Christopher Piper, and MayField Piper, and the music of the Arlington Symphony Orchestra, the approximately 50-minute show is recommended for ages 4-plus. Tickets are $15.
Visit https://www.thepuppetco.org/ for more information.
By Ellyn Wexler