The Nutcracker press conference review- More magic for Christmas in Chicago

On Monday, April 11, 2016, the Joffrey Ballet held a press conference and reception  to introduce the artistic team for the world premiere of  British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s new version of “The Nutcracker”. The event was held at The Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress, Chicago, long the collaborative venue for this great dance company. The press was ushered into and out of the theater by small dancers from the Joffrey’s Community Engagement and Academic Programs, clad in white, assuming traditional ballet positions and welcoming and thanking the guests. Once settling on the stage, the gathered audience was treated to the overture and a medley from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s beloved score performed by a quintet from The Chicago Philharmonic. In front of the stage was a large tapestry-like image for the new ballet.

The image of the new "Nutcracker"

Speakers included Greg Cameron, Executive Director, The Joffrey Ballet; Michelle Boone, Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director, the Joffrey Ballet; Christopher Wheeldon, choreographer; Brian Selznick, author; April Daly, Leading Artist, The Joffrey Ballet, and Linda C. O’Bannon, Auditorium Theatre Board Member. All of the speakers were well-prepared and well-spoken. All of them were very enthusiastic supporters of the new project, and of Christopher Wheeldon, no stranger to the Joffrey Ballet, which has presented his “Carousel”, “Continuum” and “Swan Lake”, and a dab hand at reimagining classics, such as “Cinderella”, and “The Winter”s Tale”.The new Nutcracker has an award-winning team reinterpreting E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, and revised many times by such great dance masters and companies as George Balanchine, and the Maryinsky. Wheeldon, himself the winner of a Tony for Best Choreography for “An American in Paris”, was just awarded The Order of The British Empire, and confided to this reviewer, “Nobody could be more excited about that than my mother”. Other members of the team include Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of children’s books; Julian Crouch, scenic and costume designer; Basil Twist, puppeteer; Natasha Katz, lighting designer; Ben Pearcy, production designer, and others.

The Chicago Philharmonic members playing at the press conference

For over two decades, Chicago has loved Robert Joffrey’s vision of the Nutcracker. Differing slightly from the original tale, set in 1816 Germany, Joffrey’s was set in Victorian Chicago. However, both begin in a large and grand home, and center around Clara, a daughter of wealth and privilege. Much of the plot has ended at the conclusion of the first act, and the remaining story in Act 2 is really a vehicle for the dream-magical imaginings of Clara, transported to a snowy wonderland of fighting mice, a royal prince, and dancers from around the world.Of course, in keeping with it's history of access and inclusion, the ballet will offer great diversity in it's performers.The new ballet will be a modern story, set at the 1893 Columbian exposition, which also saw the opening of The Auditorium.  Priviliged Clara will morph into Marie, the daughter of a poor immigrant worker at the fair. However, most ingenously, the story line will continue beyond Act 1, as the installations from around the world are used as a backdrop for the continuing tale.

Christopher Wheeldon addresses the crowd

All of the speakers emphasized that “the magic will continue”. The ballet will keep the elements we all love, but "will be shocking in it's reality". Wheater, Wheeldon and Daly all described growing up with this ballet, noting that it’s a rite of passage for young dancers. We were assured, “The tree will grow”, and that Wheeldon “won’t steal Christmas”.

Greg Cameron brings the snow

The conference, which commenced with Greg Cameron telling the press, “I’m going to channel my inner Drosselmeyer”, ended with a verbal signal from him, causing the ceiling to magically release a flood of paper snowflakes, like those we have loved watching as they fall in the Nutcracker. Tickets went on sale the day of the conference.

The magic of The Nutcracker continues


For tickets to The Nutcracker, and other great performances, go to

 All photos courtesy of Todd Rosenberg



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