JoffreyNutcracker16 projection

The Joffrey Ballet Production of “The Nutcracker” is Magnificent!

***** Highly Recommended ***** The Joffrey Ballet’s “new” version of “The Nutcracker”, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is magnificent.  By setting “The Nutcracker” against the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Wheeldon has given the city a unique gift.  I am in awe!  Loved everything about “The Nutcracker”.  4 BIG Spotlights!

Some people hated the very idea of a new “Nutcracker”.  These traditionalists seem to think that every step in a ‘classic’ ballet should be written in bronze.  Although my friend Crista doesn’t fit into the traditionalist category, she did say she thought the story belonged in Europe.  As for me, I do like traditional ballet, but I’m also open to change, so I was beyond excited that I was going to see the premiere.

As the lights dim, the image of a nutcracker is replaced by projections of real Chicago newspaper headlines and stories proclaiming the Columbian Exposition – the Chicago World’s Fair.  One of those headlines mentions that building the Fair is creating jobs.

The Great Impresario of the Fair (Miguel Angel Blanco), flourishing his cape, shows VIPs around the site, also pointing out important features on a model.  At the site, people go about their business, passing the fences around the construction.  Some boys even try to sneak onto the grounds.  The boys jostle each other around as a man passes with a wagonload of packages.  Franz (Dylan Sengpiel) steals a tall, red box which is tossed from boy to boy.

When Franz and his sister, Marie (Amanda Assucena), go home to their shack near the site, Mother (Victoria Jaiani) is working on a sculpture for the Fair.  Marie is frightened of the mice which share the site – and their shack.

Workers begin to arrive at their shack, bringing decorations and food for a Christmas celebration.  The Great Impresario and his apprentice, Peter (Alberto Velazquez), projects a silhouette of the Fair, entertaining the workers with a glimpse of what they’re building.  After rewarding the workers with bonus envelopes, he gives each child a gift.  Marie’s gift is a nutcracker which she delights in using.

That night, Marie has a really vivid dream.  She’s surrounded by giant Rats (Raúl Casasola, Fernando Duarte, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Hansol Jeong, Alonso Tepetzi, Elivelton Tomazi) battling toy soldiers (Yoshihisa Arai, Edson Barbosa, Riley Horton, Graham Maverick, Aaron Renteria, Paulo Rodrigues).  A life-sized Nutcracker (Alberto Velazquez) is fighting the evil Rat King (Rory Hohenstein), but Marie saves the day!  The Nutcracker miraculously transforms into a real Prince (Velazquez).  The Great Impresario, Marie and the Prince sail away.

The snow dance is exquisite, as are the ice blue costumes.  Soloists Nicole Ciapponi, Cara Marie Gary, Jeraldine Mendoza and Christine Rocas dance with the Ice Cavaliers, Derrick Agnoletti, Yoshihisa Arai, Edson Barbosa and Graham Maverick.  They are joined by the Snowflakes, eight Junior Snowflakes and Baby Snow – 36 child dancers.

As their ship makes lane, the Queen of the Fair (Victoria Jaiani) welcomes them with an incredibly graceful solo.  The Great Impresario leads Marie and the Prince through the exhibits of the Fair, but not before Marie and the Prince have a chance to dance together.

Sometimes they are joined by other Fair visitors – Valeria Chaykina, Anastacia Holden, Dara Holmes, Gayeon Jung, Yumi Kanazawa, Brooke Linford, Jacqueline Moscicke, Olivia Tang-Mifsud, Derrick Agnoletti, Edson Barbosa, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Graham Maverick, Aaron Renteria, Paulo Rodrigues, Elivelton Tomazi and Joan Sebastian Zamora.

There are Spanish Dancers: Anais Bueno, April Daly, Yoshihisa Arai and Temur Suluashvili, who stomp with a flamenco flair.

The Arabian Dance has always been sensual.  These Arabian Dancers, Christine Rocas and Fabrice Calmels take sensual to a whole new level.

A Chinese Dancer (Fernando Duarte) and two Chinese Dragons celebrate Chinese New Year.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is a featured act on the Fair’s sideshow.  Buffalo Bill (Dylan Gutierrez) demonstrates his roping and leaping skills while his Wild West Girls (Lucia Connolly, Chloé Sherman and Joanna Wozniak) dance backup.

There are Venetian Masked Dancers, Nicole Ciapponi, Cara Marie Gary and Jeraldine Mendoza.

Finally, Mother Nutcracker (Matt Roben) chases a group of Walnuts.

The Queen of the Fair and her partner return for a final dazzling pas de deux.

The Joffrey Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” runs through December 30th at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, Chicago.  Running time is just about 2 hours with an intermission.

Remaining performances are:

Friday, Dec. 16, 7 pm; Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 pm and 7 pm; Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 pm and 7 pm; Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7 pm; Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2 pm and 7 pm; Thursday, Dec. 22, 2 pm and 7 pm; Friday, Dec. 23, 2 pm and 7 pm; Saturday, Dec. 24, 2 pm.; Monday, Dec. 26, 2 pm and 7 pm; Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2pm and 7 pm; Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2 pm and 7 pm; Thursday, Dec. 29, 7 pm; and Friday, Dec. 30, 7 pm.

Tickets range from $35-$170.  The best parking option I’ve found is the Park 1 lot on the corner of Wabash and Van Buren, however, the price has been raised during the run of “The Nutcracker”.  FYI (312) 386-8905 or