One of my favorite Chicago holiday traditions is coming to an end. Robert Joffrey’s stunning “Nutcracker,” first performed by the Joffrey Ballet in 1987, is taking its final bow. This interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Russian ballet, set in 1860’s America, is now considered one of the country’s most popular versions.
Set in an opulent Victorian era home, Robert Joffey’s version of ‘Nutcracker,’ which has become an American classic, has all the ingredients of the traditional holiday favorite, plus a few modern additions that make it a visual spectacle. In one scene, there’s a giant doll puppet with rambunctious children emerging from the marionette’s hooped skirt. Children and adults will be amazed by the jaw-dropping ending. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but a balloon lifts Clara and Dr. Drosselmeyer off the stage, bringing the house down in applause.
Although this is a kid-friendly way to introduce children to the art of ballet, most of the audience is made up of adults. Adults like me who love the incredible dancers, dazzling costumes, world-class set design and classic score performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic flock to this show year after year. Unfortunately, this will be the last year this version of the classic will be performed.
Art of the Auditorium
As exceptional as the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” is, you’ll be equally impressed by the performance venue. The Auditorium Theatre is one of the country’s grand landmark theaters. If you’re an architecture buff, you’ll be dazzled and delighted to attend a performance in this ornate historic building, designated with landmark status in 1975. Lavish murals and mosaics fill the gilded interior of this masterpiece by the renowned architectural team of Adler and Sullivan. If you want to see more, you can take a tour of the building on Mondays at 10 a.m. and noon.
After enjoying a classic “Nutcracker” performance, take your kids to see the real thing— toy nutcrackers on display at the Christkindlmarket. Stop by Chicago’s Daley Plaza and have a glass of Gluhwein (hot spiced wine) at this traditional German outdoor holiday market. Cheers!
Accompanying this delightful ballet is the beloved score by Tchaikovsky, played by the Chicago Philharmonic, led by Scott Speck. Hearing this ballet with a live world-class orchestra makes the experience even more spectacular. If the dancing weren’t so dazzling, just the music would be a treat.
Hopefully Christopher Wheeldon’s new take on the classic, debuting next year, will introduce a whole new generation to this holiday tradition!