The Joffrey Ballet's "Nutcracker" Review - A Treasured and Enchanting Holiday Tradition

The  Joffrey Ballet’s 25th Anniversary of The Nutcracker is a treasured and enchanting holiday tradition.

Caitlin Meighan as Clara, Mauro Villanueva as Drosselmeyer

Is there any Christmas tradition that is more magical and endearing than taking in a performance of the “Nutcracker” Ballet with your family?  The Joffrey Ballet brings the famous children’s story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), to life in their fabulous Silver Anniversary production at the Auditorium Theatre.  The story of the Christmas Eve party, Clara and the Nutcracker, and the fantasy dream world that comes to life after midnight is sure to enchant both the young and young at heart.

Jack Thorpe-Baker as the Mouse King, Dylan Gutierrez as the Nutcracker Soldier

As the curtain rises, the audience is invited into the luxurious Victorian parlor, where we meet Clara, her family, friends and relatives, and watch as the evening festivities unfold.  The adults celebrate the holidays with warmth and good cheer, while the children prance around the parlor in eager anticipation of the presents they expect to receive.  Clara’s godfather, Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives a little late, with gifts for young and old.  He presents Clara with a nutcracker in the shape of a handsome prince that she treasures instantly.  As the evening festivities come to a close, the guests make their exit and the houselights dim.  At this point, the magic starts. The nutcracker comes to life, as well as the toy soldiers and dolls, and a full out battle ensues with the chimney mice.  From here the action moves to several exotic locales, where Clara, Dr. Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker prince have a series of adventures in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets, and meet some strange and wondrous characters. 

Rory Hohenstein and Christine Rocas as the Snow King and Queen

This Nutcracker is a feast for the senses, a beautifully choreographed ballet performed with grace and style to some of the most beloved music ever composed.  The sumptuous sets, elaborate costumes and imaginative use of special effects draw us into this magical world.   The ballet troupe is in fine form in this production with highlight performances by Dylan Gutierrez in the role of the Nutcracker Prince, Christine Rocas as the Snow Queen, April Daly as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Mauro Villanueva as Dr. Drosselmeyer, Clara’s mysterious and magical godfather. 

Rory Hohenstein and Christine Rocas in the Arabian pas de deux

There were also many excellent performances amongst the supporting cast.  In particular, the dancers who performed as the Nougats from Russia( Jacqueline Moscicke, Derrick Agnoletti, Yoshihisa Arai, John Mark Giragosian), the Chocolate of Spain (Amber Neumann), the Coffee from Arabia (Christine Rocas & Rory Hohenstein), the Tea from China (Anastacia Holden, Ricardo Santos) and the Snow Prince (Ricardo Santos) brought their characters vividly to life.  In addition, the corps de ballet dressed in breathtaking costumes danced exquisitely during the Land of Snow and the Waltz of the Flowers scenes.

Mother Ginger and the Polichinelles

This production of the Nutcracker is very special in that it includes a cast of 118 young dancers. Their roles as party boys and girls, snow angels, dolls, soldiers, mice and other characters added to the merriment.  (We sat next to a woman beaming with pride, as her daughter performed as one of the little angels in the Land of Snow.)  In addition, a children’s choir performed the choral accompaniments during the magical snow scene.

The music of this ballet, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is well-known for its beautiful melodies, and the The Chicago Philharmonic conducted by Scott Speck performed the score with great sensitivity and style.

I have seen The Nutcracker many times, and am always moved by this story that combines an old fashioned Christmas celebration with a highly imaginative children’s tale.  It has become a cherished part of my holiday traditions.  See this ballet with your family and create a holiday tradition of your own!


Dylan Gutierrez as the Nutcracker Prince, April Daly as the Sugar Plum Fairy

The Nutcracker continues through December 27th at the Auditorium Theatre at 50 E. Congress Parkway. Tickets are $31-$132 and are available for purchase at the following places: online at www. ,the Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St. as well as theAuditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University box office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787 or online at

A Ballet in Two Acts based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816)

The Joffrey Ballet Company

Music by The Chicago Philharmonic, the Official Orchestra of the Joffrey Ballet

Robert Joffrey (Conceiver, Director); Gerald Arpino(additional Choreography); Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky(Composer of Music); Scott Speck (Music Director of the Joffrey BalletGeorge Verdak and Scott Barnard(Original Staging); Ashley C. Wheator (Artistic Director); Christopher Clinton Conway (Executive Director);Oliver Smith (Scenery); Jack Mehler (Lighting); Willy Shives, Katie Garwood (Children’s Ballet Masters); Kermit Love (Puppet Creative Design);

All Photos by Herbert Migdoll 

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