Suburban Chicago's Marriott Theatre offers a family-friendly version of "The Nutcracker." Photo courtesy of Peter Coombs/Marriott Theatre.

Suburban Chicago’s Marriott Theatre offers a family-friendly version of “The Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Peter Coombs/Marriott Theatre.

No matter how beautiful the Joffrey Ballet’s 2 1/2 hour version of “The Nutcracker” is, good luck getting little kids to sit through it (or getting tickets, period).

So a 1-hour, kid-friendly version of “The Nutcracker” at the Marriott Theatre in suburban Chicago might be just the ticket for families.
Inexpensive ($15 — and free parking), yet high quality, the show packs in a little bit of everything. It’s got a little Christmas feel, a little dancing, a few clips from the famous Tchaikovsky score, and a little audience interaction to keep the kids’ attention level up.
For a Nutcracker traditionalist like myself, the script and songs felt a little kooky. DestinationReviewBut my 8- and 10-year-olds were captivated the whole time, as were the preschool-aged children in the audience. The story centers on a girl named Marie, who dreams that her dolls come to life, including her newly gifted nutcracker. The nutcracker’s crown is stolen by three goofy mice, and Marie and her friends follow the mice from place to place, trying to get it back.
The show clips along at a nice pace, and the colorful costumes, singing, and acting are all terrific — something that’s become the standard for children’s shows at the Marriott Theatre. One costume had lit Christmas lights sewn into it.
Marriott Theatre's The Nutcracker is a family-friendly version of the classic holiday show.

Photo by Peter Coombs/Marriott Theatre
This gown had Christmas lights built into it, one of the many great costumes in the Marriott Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker”

Definitely stay for the post-show Q&A with the cast. It’s only about 10 minutes long, and the kids get to ask questions, some of which are funny. The actors give serious answers, so it becomes a bit of an educational experience as well.
After the show, in the lobby, I heard a young girl whining “I want to see it again!” So while it might not be the magnificent Nutcracker ballet you’d find downtown, this version will be a big hit with the little ones. It’s a great value, a quality production, a 10 a.m. showtime, and a nice family activity in north suburban Chicago.
In the past, we’ve spent the night at the Marriott Lincolnshire Hotel before the 10 a.m. show (we bought a ticket & hotel package). That’s a fun option as well. While the hotel is currently undergoing renovations, it has a great indoor pool (the must-have for any hotel stay involving young kids) and an in-lobby Starbucks.
The Nutcracker runs most Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m. with certain performances at 12:30 p.m. Show runs through Dec. 28, 2013.
See MarriottTheatre.com or call (847) 634-0200 for exact schedule, as show times and dates may vary. Single ticket prices are $15 per person. Groups of 20 or more receive a discount by calling (847) 634-5909. Parking is free.